THIS week, as we reached the high-water mark of Tory sleaze, corruption and disdain for ordinary citizens, what was perhaps most instructive to voters in Scotland was the contempt displayed towards the Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross by senior figures in his own party.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said Ross “is not a big figure in the Conservative Party” – well, that much we knew. But worse was to come from fellow Scot Michael Gove whose withering putdown for the proles who haven’t managed to escape the far north for betterment in London was very revealing: “My instant response is he’s in Elgin and the national Tory leader is in London.”

With that the pompous and insecure Scot in London, desperately trying to ape his acquired social set, amplified and reflected back the derision for Scotland and the Scots which abounds at the heart of the British establishment.

Yes, Boris and his mates despise the plebs, but even more so if they are in Scotland.

As that contempt has become impossible to deny and even Keir Starmer calls for Johnson’s resignation, some ask whether it’s wise for the SNP to force the resignation of such a lame dog Prime Minister? Much as some still ponder whether it was wise for the SNP to force the General Election that so strengthened an already damaged Boris Johnson’s hand in December 2019.

Henry Kissinger famously said: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” So, in the midst of this ever-growing scandal, what is in the interests of Scotland and what will further the cause of independence?

Scotland’s impotence in the UK has led to us being forced out of the EU against our will despite all the assurances that this would not be allowed to happen. Yet the evidence that the EU is a much more attractive option than the union with England, continues to mount.

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And the truth is that even if we get rid of Johnson, he will be replaced by another Tory leader who thinks Brexit is the settled will of the British people and who will be saddled with the deal Johnson negotiated. Indeed, even if Labour’s poll lead holds up and they win the next UK General Election, before independence is secured, there is no reason to believe they would reverse Brexit and Starmer has set his face against independence and any deal with the SNP.

While the partygate scandal raged this week, Labour held an opposition day debate to highlight the burdens currently faced by British business and to suggest some solutions. Astonishingly, the motion and the speech of their lead spokesperson made no mention of Brexit.

Yet Brexit is forecast to do twice as much damage to the economy as Covid-19. In October the Office for Budget Responsibility’s economic and fiscal outlook forecast that in the long term Brexit will cause a 4% hit to GDP as opposed to a 2% hit from Covid.

On the first anniversary of Brexit, Boris Johnson boasted of striking more than 70 new trade deals but he did not bother to mention that all but two of them were merely extending existing EU deals or that the promised trade deal with US has failed to materialise.

He claimed to have taken back control of Britain’s borders without mentioning the refugee crisis in the English Channel which, absent international co-operation, is proving hard to solve. Nor did he mention the labour shortages which are particularly acute in our agriculture and hospitality sectors as a result of the loss of freedom of movement.

And, as of January 1, there is a whole maze of new customs bureaucracy for those who wish to import goods from the EU to the UK.

Goods imported from the EU now need immediate import declarations, not six months down the line as before. Food and plant products need to be notified in advance and you only get the tariff-free trade the PM promised if importers and exporters can prove that the goods were made substantially in the UK or the EU.

BRITISH exporters to the EU had to face all this last year – it has drastically damaged the seafood industry in Scotland – but the UK Government delayed the import controls in the UK until January 1 this year. There are many more rules involving costly and time-consuming inspections on imports from the EU due to be introduced as 2022 progresses.

It is understandable that the PM and the Tories don’t want to mention these problems but why are the official opposition so reluctant to do so? I imagine they don’t want to antagonise the working-class pro-Brexit voters who broke down the red wall to elect so many Tory MPs for the first time two years ago.

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But that was then, and this is now. Opinion polls show that some of those new Tory MPs’ coats are on very shoogly pegs. Importantly they also show that the public aren’t happy with how Brexit is going. Last week, a YouGov survey showed that across the UK only 15% of people think Brexit is going fairly or very well whereas 52% think it’s going fairly or very badly. While Johnson’s stock plummets we should not forget that it was Tory MPs like Douglas Ross, now rushing to condemn him, who voted him in as leader and who put him in a position to impose a particularly messy Brexit on all four constituent parts of the UK. They need to be made to own the consequences of their actions.

But, as regards Scotland’s future, it does not matter much who the Tory leader is and a Labour PM won’t make that much difference either.

Ultimately, re-alignment with the EU and re-entrance into the single market and customs union is necessary to undo the worst impacts of Brexit. However, rather than seek solutions, the UK under the Tories is agitating for further disruption by threatening to invoke Article 16 in Northern Ireland, and frustrating Brexit negotiations on Northern Ireland. Yet Labour won’t talk about it and Labour don’t have a plan for what to do about it.

Meanwhile, as my colleague Richard Thomson, the SNP’s spokesperson on Northern Ireland revealed last week, the performance of the Irish economy, North and South, shows the benefits of membership of the single market. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the Northern Irish economy has largely recovered from the pandemic with the best performance across all nations and regions of the UK.

This suggests that the access to the single market afforded by the protocol is beneficial. In contrast, the Scottish economy has suffered a 6% hit since the final full quarter before the pandemic hit. South of what remains of the border imposed on Ireland 100 years ago, the Republic of Ireland has become economically stronger than the UK as the proportion of its export trade in goods with the UK became a smaller proportion of its overall trade.

Export figures from the Irish Central Statistics Office show that in 1973 – when the UK and Ireland joined the European Community – Ireland exported nearly 55% of its goods to the UK. Now, with a more diverse economy, 90% of the country’s exports are to non-UK destinations. OECD data shows that its GDP per person has gone from only being 66% of the UK’s in 1973 to over 200% in 2020, the latest year available.

These figures shows the benefits of membership of the biggest single market in the world, around seven times the size of the UK’s internal market. They also give the lie to the unionist argument that Scotland must forever be predominantly reliant on its trade with England to thrive.

But for now, Scotland is cut off from the world’s largest single market in a UK that has the lowest GDP per head, worst economic productivity, highest poverty rates, and greatest inequality amongst its neighbours.

This tale of two nations surely shows that no matter which PM replaces Johnson, as now seems inevitable, Scotland’s interests lie in going our own way and joining another union in which we can enjoy the benefits of relationship of equals.