STAND BY FOR THE "REVERSE" VOW.

At the time of the drafting of the original Scotland Act there was prodigious head scratching over the formulation of the clauses. What powers could and should the new parliament enjoy? Which needed to or should be reserved to the existing Westminster legislature?  The solution proved as simple as it was elegant. Just decide what stayed south - defence, macro economics, foreign policy - and declare that everthing else was devolved.

And so it came to pass.  And the inaugural Scottish coalition government found itself in charge of everday citizens' concerns like housing, education, transport and health.  But there were hidden wrinkles not least over matters like agriculture and fishing.  Whilst some aspects of those were devolved, the major negotiations with European partners over national policy and implementation were led by the UK government.  This proved particularly frustrating in terms of fishing considering the size of the Scottish fleet -twice the size of the English one in the seventies- now much diminished after years of being subjected to new regulations and quotas. 

As a result the Scottish Fishing industry seemed keener last year on Brexit than most of Scotland, hoping to extricate themselves from pan European negotiations where they felt they'd been used as disposable bargaining chips by the UK minister. It would do well to think on what might happen post Brexit however, given the Prime Minister's speech at the Scottish Tory conference.  She made it only too clear that when powers are re-patriated to the UK from Brussells they will come home to Whitehall and not Holyrood; including those vital budgetary and policy areas where Holyrood is currently in charge.

You might call this a reverse vow.  Unlike the now discredited promises prior to the 2014 referendeum and resulting from the Smith Commission, the latest May decree seems to be saying: "remember what we vowed to give you if you voted NO - well forget that. And while you're at it forget some of the devolved powers you do have.  We are four nations but one people, and the people who matter from 2019 will be sitting behind ministerial desks at Westminster."

It's breathtaking stuff from a woman who, alongside her colleagues, once argued that the only way Scotland could preserve its status within Europe was to set its face against indpendence. Now, not only is she content to haul Scotland out of Europe despite almost two thirds of Scots voting to remain, but she is using the severance deal to re-write constitutional history.  Her local lackey, David Mundell, has already hinted that a new Scotland Act may be necessary.  You may rest assured that such a piece of legislation would not be introduced in order to enhance Holyrood's potency.

In one sense we should be grateful to Mrs May.  At least now we know where we don't stand!  No more pretence that she's in the market for listening to Scottish voters.  We are the people, and we fix the future from London.  It will be interesting to see how Ruth Davidson sells this on to a bemused electorate.  It is a perfectly legitimate position to say you don't believe in another referendum, or that you don't want Scotland to leave the union.  But it is rather difficult to square that with all the loose talk of a bright new European future for Scots if they rejected independence.  With vows of more powers. Promises of being equal partners.

The Prime Minister has called her own bluff, thereby saving the rest of us the trouble.  Now those of us who believe that Scotland must disconnect from an increasingly right wing, punitive, racist administration and work towards an inclusive future for all its citizens whatever their origins, whatever their belief system, whatever their colour, have hard work to do.

Unlike one of my esteemed colleagues I don't believe we will achieve a Yes vote in another referendum unless we have well worked out answers to questions on the economy, and the currency.  We will need to emphasise our intention of a cordial, mutually beneficial relationship with the rest of the UK, (rather as Mrs May and Co insists they can have with Europe on the flimsiest of evidence) and meanwhile continue ourselves to negotiate with European partners as to the logistics of Scotland staying within the EU and the single market.  The idea that we have to choose to trade with the UK or the EU is utterly fallacious.  They are not mutualy exclusive options.

None of the above is easy, but all of it is essential if we want to ensure that this time round we are fully prepared for the debate, and fully insured against a raft of scare tactics and downright lies.  Mr Trump has not quite cornered the market on the latter.