ON May 5, parties supporting the Northern Ireland Protocol – the treaty agreement between the UK and the EU designed to keep the Six Counties in the single market – won a majority of votes in the Assembly elections. The combined vote share for Sin Fein (29%), the nationalist SDLP (9%) and the Alliance Party (13.5%) totalled 52.5%t. That is a clear majority even before we add in the votes for the smaller republican parties.

Yet despite this clear mandate, the British Conservative government has embarked on a plan to unilaterally scrap large parts of the protocol in order to placate the DUP and other Unionist factions. Indeed, the DUP – which came only second in the Assembly elections after Sinn Fein – is threatening to block the reinstatement of a devolved administration at Stormont unless the protocol is scrapped.

The DUP get round their blatant rejection of the democratic will of the electorate of Northern Ireland by insisting that many of those who voted for the Alliance Party actually oppose the protocol. However, this flies in the face of the fact that at the 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44 to stay in the EU and single market – a clear, binary choice.

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Boris Johnson and the Tories are prepared to ignore the will of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, in order to placate a Unionist minority set on wrecking any workable devolved government unless they get their own way. This hardly bodes well for the future of the province. It also proves the Tories have long since abandoned respect for real democracy – which bodes ill for Scotland.

Most commentators, obviously, point to the implications for Northern Ireland of this growing democratic deficit at Westminster. But the rot affects the whole of these islands. We are now governed by a Conservative clique that has abandoned constitutional norms for a quasi-populist English nationalism that puts staying in power far above the proper governance of the UK.

Consider the recent changes the government made to the remit of the supposedly independent Electoral Commission, which is meant to be the guardian of fair elections. The Cabinet has given itself powers to draw up a new policy document for the commission. If you don’t think that has something to do with blocking another Scottish independence referendum, then you are being naive. The Tories are quietly dismantling or subverting democratic norms in their own interests.

A swift look at the legislation promised in the Queen’s Speech shows that the “Northern Ireland effect” has infected all areas of government. The Home Secretary is bringing back to Parliament the Public Order Bill, previously shredded in the Lords. This legislation aims explicitly to limit the right to protest.

Then there is to be a new “Bill of Rights” – as if Priti Patel would know a human right if it fell on her head. Somewhere the shade of George Orwell is laughing hysterically. This bill aims to undermine the Human Rights Act which enshrines in UK law the conventions of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. The latter, let me remind you, was the work largely of a Scottish lawyer and Tory politician, David Maxwell Fyfe.

Note: the European Convention is written explicitly into the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland as well as the Scotland Act setting up Holyrood. These provisions were created deliberately as a block on any majority at Westminster trying to interfere with the rights of the other UK nations.

But, as we know, Westminster is a law unto itself. This new so-called Bill of Rights legislation is aimed directly at Holyrood and at undermining the Good Friday Agreement. You have been warned.

Then there is the “Brexit Freedoms” Bill. This is simply a catch-all that gives Tory ministers instant executive power to repeal any legislation they want that they claim came into law via the EU.

The validity or necessity of such EU provisions is neither here nor there. If the Tories want it out, they can wave a magic executive wand and it is gone. This is the polar opposite of democracy. And it will be used to override existing Scottish law regardless of the wishes of Holyrood.

There is a theme here. The Queen’s Speech is not about ordinary law-making but proposes a series of “enabling” acts that give ministers sweeping executive powers. This is the political antechamber to dictatorship.

The Johnson government is no longer concerned with governing per se. The economic and constitutional crises Britain faces are beyond the competencies of this bunch of parvenu adventurers. Instead, Johnson and his cronies rule through gesture politics. And by the exercise of increasingly arbitrary executive power. This is not the usual Tory incompetence. This is scary.

Alas, the Labour opposition provides no alternative. Starmer and Co are desperate to look conventional and “safe” in order to appeal to the frightened inhabitants of England’s declining northern towns. But the desperation of these voters is destined only to increase as the economic crisis worsens.

If inflation breasts 10% per annum, as it will, then living standards are going to crater. At which point Starmer’s impersonation of a political robot with a personality bypass will pale before a Boris Johnson who is willing to promise absolutely anything to anyone, in order to get re-elected in 2024.

Johnson’s willingness to ignore democracy in Northern Ireland in order to placate the Unionist ultras should be a warning. We are now ruled by an administration that will do absolutely anything to stay in power. That means we will not get a second independence referendum north of the Border.

Every possible referendum scenario looks impossible. A legal go-ahead for a unilateral referendum will only provoke new Westminster legislation to either block a vote or ban its public financing. If a referendum went ahead, it would be boycotted by the Unionists anyway. Which takes us to 2024 and (as of now) a UK General election that returns Johnson to power. Or, at very best, gives us a minority Starmer administration unwilling to be seen to do any deals with the SNP.

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We live in the end times. The global political and economic order we have known since the end of the Second World War is dead. In this new world, the UK has unmoored itself from Europe and lacks either the economic or political power to dictate events. Internally, the ruling Tory Party is deeply divided between various cliques of libertarians, orthodox conservatives and downright opportunists. All they can agree on is staying in power.

My worry is that Scotland seems unaware of how much the rest of Britain has changed. Holyrood still treats Westminster as if it were a rational, law-abiding actor in a genuine democracy. The SNP leadership still appear to think that the Tories will respond favourably to democratic pressure.

But such hopes have just died in Northern Ireland, under the weight of the Tories’ desire to stay in office. We no longer live in a functioning democracy. There is no point any longer in trying to play by rules everyone else has abandoned.