IAM sorry I missed the chance to wish George Foulkes – apologies, that should be Baron Foulkes of Cumnock – a happy 80th birthday back in January.

I suspect I forgot that milestone because he seemed to disappear from the media for a while. But now he is back with his usual skill for self-publicity, and this time he wants to outlaw independence.

I first met George when I was in my first year at Edinburgh University and was just starting up the greasy pole of student politics. He, however, although only 28, was already an Edinburgh City councillor and had been president of both the Edinburgh Student Representative Council and the Scottish Union of Students. He went on to be education convenor of the new Lothian Region before becoming the MP for South Ayrshire in 1979, narrowly beating Jim Sillars who had held the seat since 1970.

At that time, George was always engaging, clearly on the way up in Scottish politics, and although I quickly moved on from my Labour student days and into the SNP, I still managed to maintain a civilised, if increasingly distant, acquaintanceship with him – something much more difficult across parties now given the divisive nature of our current debates.

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Despite that bright start, the highest point George reached in the Blair government was as minister of state in the Scottish Office for a single year, after a slightly longer period as an even more junior minister for international development.

Perhaps his uber-loyalty to the Labour leadership became just too obvious a ploy, taken as it was to the extreme of attacking some journalists covering the Commons expenses scandal for undermining democracy.

That tendency to take every issue beyond its logical limits – in other words to have no sense of degree or proportion – has been increasingly evident the closer you look at George’s activities over the years.

As early as May 1981, as the MP for South Ayrshire, he introduced a Private Member’s Bill to the Commons entitled The Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games. His impassioned speech about the bill – which got within 20 votes of passing its first stage – called the games a “force for evil” and accused young people of resorting to “theft, blackmail and vice” in order to find the money to play them.

Reading the Hansard record of the brief debate it is hard not to draw a comparison with some of the overblown rhetoric George now uses to describe nationalists in general and the SNP in particular.

That language was honed during his surprising period at Holyrood, because, having retired from the House of Commons in 2005 after

26 years and having become a member of the House of Lords within months, he suddenly turned up at the top of Labour’s Lothian list for the 2007 election.

This was bad timing. After that election, the SNP become the largest party and George, expecting to be a grandee and probably a minister, found himself a backbencher in opposition and, moreover, a witness to the emerging strength and competence of a nationalist government.

His reaction was to shout a lot, something most members at the time will recall. He tried the patience of the presiding officers but he was remarkably ineffective in holding the new government to account, largely because all his attacks had that same tendency to the extreme and were typified in a now-famous quote when he claimed on TV that it was a bad thing that the SNP in government were “deliberately ” trying to make services in Scotland better than elsewhere.

George’s new bill outlawing independence has that same fatal extremist flaw. It intends to forbid a devolved government from spending any money on areas reserved to Westminster.

According to Foulkes, this would be “the end of indyref2”. That being the aim, he has secured the support of such usual suspects as Tory former Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth (last elected to any Parliament in 1992) and the sinister serial political failure Liam Fox.

However, George has expressed surprise that he is sensing a “reluctance” from the current UK Government to support him, claiming that this is because they “don’t want to upset the SNP”.

That, of course, is nonsense. The truth will be that even those who might be attracted to the idea will have been quickly advised not just about the anti-democratic stink of such a step, but of the legal and political quagmire such a bill would produce.

Each court action – and they would be legion – would create more traction for a Scottish Government trying to do its best for those who elected it, and each would remind voters that the UK was so devoid of arguments that it simply resorted to legal force to impose its will on a reluctant Scottish population.

At home it would be the best recruiting sergeant for independence you could imagine. Abroad, it would confirm the perilous decline of democracy at Westminster that is already becoming obvious to our former friends and neighbours across the globe.

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On March 30, 1989, George was one of the 58 Scottish MPs who signed the Claim of Right, produced by the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly – one of the Scottish Parliament’s founding documents, reconfirmed by that Parliament in January 2012.

It asserted “The sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”

I hope that George, politically atrophied as he has become, is not yet so far beyond reason and shame that he cannot see the contradiction between that pledge and what he is now so foolishly engaged in – an attempt to legislate in order to forcibly prevent the Scottish people from ever exercising that right.

Although in one sense I feel like saying “bring it on”, in another, perhaps for the sake of the past, I just want to tell George: “Dinnae be sae daft.”