IT’S sickening. Listening to right-wingers compete over the number of desperate asylum seekers they can deport to Rwanda.

It’s visceral. Hearing a 10th-rate Tory politician talk glibly about restricting the right to strike.

And utterly depressing – especially for those of us old enough to remember the Thatcher era. When the Tories were defeated and English voters (momentarily) caught up with Scots in that hopeful election of Tony Blair in 1997, there was a massive sigh of relief.

We’d never, ever be heading back to those bitter Thatcher years again. But the rest became history. And here we go again.

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The tone of the Tory leadership contenders may have softened, but their stance on everything – especially industrial relations – has hardened. Listen to Sunak supporter Grant Shapps saying industrial action on the railways and other imminent strikes will be stopped by legislation curtailing the right to strike.

Whit?! It seems Liz Truss agrees. DANGER. This is something not even the Blessed Margaret devised. It’s out of order, off the page, unprecedented in a modern European state and guaranteed to make the crumbling delivery of public services in England infinitely worse by ending the worker goodwill that keeps the whole sorry, underfunded system afloat.

It breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, all of whose signatories guarantee the right to strike and join a union and adds weight to the rumour that Prime Minister Truss will take the UK straight out of the organisation it helped create after the Second Worold War to guard against torture, slavery and unfair trials.

Still, who cares if it lets this woman – with no popular mandate of her own – deport terrified people without legal complaint and crush strikes, presumably arresting all and sundry.

This is what awaits us – but where’s the reaction? Has this endless Tory contest with its inexhaustible stream of right-wing commentators so thoroughly normalised right- wingery that no-one is ready to bat an eyelid – bar the eloquent and redoubtable Mick Lynch?

If the Tories really mean to legislate against the right to strike and then arrest their way out of unrest over their own running of the economy – shambolic by the admission of both leadership candidates – there will not be enough police or prison cells to contain the maelstrom they will unleash.

We need an instant reaction from the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon – because should this come to pass there will be one mother and father of a confrontation between organised labour and public sector employers. There may even be a General Strike and our First Minister must state clearly and quickly which side she is on.

Not just because anti-union legislation may already be in the pipeline, not just because a limp Labour Party may sit on the fence but because the Tories’ punitive approach to industrial relations is one of the strongest reasons for Scottish independence.

It’s not that unions are always right or strikes always justified.

It’s not a question of whether Grant Shapps oft-recited attack lines – Euston staff not being able to work in Kings Cross and Sunday services rail relying on volunteer drivers – are even accurate.

It’s about the way disputes between different sectors of society are resolved in a mature democracy.

By respectful negotiation. Or by a sledgehammer. We know which approach the Tories favour.

Grant Shapps moaned on the Today programme: “There’ve been 160 disputes in the three years I’ve been Transport Secretary – and not a single day without a strike or the threat of one by hard-left unions.”

Pal, don’t you realise how badly that reflects on you?

Just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to create disputes. And clearly your party courts conflict at every turn. Workers don’t join unions just to lose wages through strikes or to “hold the country to ransom” – no matter how much that fits Tory and Daily Mail ideology.

Workers join unions for protection and in sensible democracies like all our Nordic neighbours, that legitimate function sees unions sometimes sitting on company boards and are always recognised. In Iceland, workers are actually obliged to join unions because it makes pay negotiations easier – for employers.

But not here. Here might is right (the collective might of the workforce excepted, of course).

Here corporate interests have an automatic and unquestioned priority, entrenched by the BBC’s decision to give semi-permanent house room to Telegraph, Spectator and TalkTV journalists.

Here “us versus them” as a basic approach to life has never really gone out of fashion. And the race to the bottom is the only race working people will win.

We need to call out this tawdry Tory demonising of unions – part of an othering agenda which treats every dispute as a chance to deport or disable, not just outmanoeuvre opponents.

Talk of banning strikes is a dangerous distraction from the real reason the next PM will face an industrial relations meltdown that could culminate in a General Strike.

Is Britain really having more strikes than any other European country because its union laws are too permissive or because its government tends to resolve every dispute (with unions, judges, devolved governments or EU institutions) by force not compromise?

Elsewhere in Europe, this kind of Victorian stand-off between Labour and Capital would be unthinkable. Not because our better-performing, wealthier neighbours are “captured by union barons” or “run by comrades” but because mature democracies accept that properly structured industrial democracy delivers stability, higher wages, a smaller gap between the richest and poorest and thus prosperity and social cohesion.

In Scotland, this virtuous circle is a bit of a no-brainer. But in the UK, we are shackled to an angry bam of a government that solves problems by suppressing them. All to avoid that dread “weak” look of conciliation and compromise. It’s like living in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with thousands of cast members employed to devise pointless action, distracting drama, contrived conflict, forgettable enemies and nameless threats aplenty.

Us versus them. It stifles progress. It powers Britain’s deteriorating industrial relations. It sits at the heart of Tory ideology.

And since British PMs are now modern proxies for the monarchs of old – wielding absolute power over their “subjects” – it’s turbo-charged by Westminster’s “winner takes all” system of parliamentary sovereignty. It’s a useless way to run a country. And terrible suffering lies ahead.

For what? For dogma. For shoring up a combative outlook that’s destroying English society – and sucking all our energies into simply standing still, mitigating again just as Holyrood should be forging onwards.

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That’s throwing good money after bad. Throwing hope and positive energy down the drain. And yet that’s all devolution can offer.

We’re heading back to the Thatcher era with knobs on and for those of us who’ve lived through it already, that prospect is intolerable.

The stakes are getting higher with each passing week of Tory misrule.

By the SNP conference in October we need a clear gameplan and timeline for achieving independence.