WHEN they make the three-part documentary on the rise of Scottish indepen-dence I will lay a healthy bet that the director will fashion a hilarious sequence around the arrival of London politicians in Scotland.

It will splice together decades of old footage of visiting grandees canvassing Scots, as the Imperial Death March from Star Wars blares mockingly from the back of a rickshaw. A censorious voice, spoken aloud by Tam Dean Burn, will holler above the throng: “People of Glasgow, your imperial masters have arrived, they have come from London to visit you.”

Who can forget that glorious moment at the height of the indyref when a ramshackle street protest took visiting Labour politicians by surprise and cast them on the wrong side of history. It was a moment that signalled substantial and irreversible change in the politics of Scotland, and those columnists who predicted that normal service would return were left grasping at fantasies.

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This week the imperial masters came again, this time wearing tartan scarves to tell a nation if and when it could decide its own future. The message has still not dropped. Scotland is no longer the colonial outpost of the Unite union, of the parliamentary Labour Party nor some convoluted composite motion yet to be discussed at Skegness.

The game is up and to win back significant votes in Scotland, Labour has to abandon its failing tribalism and be clearer about what it brings to Scotland. The party has to close its branch office, open up anew and radically readdress its perspective on the Union. It needs to revisit its own roots and become a Home Rule party again. Jeremy Corbyn’s tartan scarf had the surface impression of being a patronising stunt like the Irn-Bru he drank aboard a train on a previous visit north, but this time Corbyn had been much better advised. The print was the Who Cares? Scotland tartan, and the scarf itself was made by people who have experienced being in care and, to be fair to Corbyn, it was a gesture that chimes with Scottish sensibilities and with traditional Labour values, even although his confused and self-incriminating position on an independence referendum in 2020 showed his indecision to be a fateful fault.

Of more concern to Labour as it faces another tough night in Scotland is that kindness, social justice and a belief in welfare is no longer their monopoly.

Paradoxically, the Momentum movement that has given Jeremy Corbyn the Ventolin inhaler of new energy across England has only been a wheeze in Scotland, as the party’s inexplicable position on independence leaves them looking like the handmaiden to a future of Tory austerity.

All the party leaders – with the notable exception of Brexit’s Nigel Farage – have been to Scotland early in the campaign. The man in the mustard cords, still claiming to be the enemy of the elite, has a deep dislike of Scotland, in part because we are a thrawn nation that sees right through him. It is not so long ago that he had to seek refuge in a bar in Edinburgh as protesters swarmed around him.

Such is his unpopularity north of the Border that you suspect that not even the parody internet meme, the New Town Flaneur would vote for him.

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Visiting Scotland on the campaign trail has becoming a tricky challenge for Unionist politicians and the media know it. They are dutifully called to obscure set-piece opportunities hidden away in either the farmlands or business centres of benign Tory members where security can be choreographed and media responses shaped to do the minimum damage.

It is now a very long time since a Conservative Party leader has felt able to walk the streets of Scotland and talk to the electorate direct.

This in itself shows the perilous state of the Union, that successive prime ministers, David Cameron, Theresa May and now Boris Johnson, are so widely distrusted that they cannot even visit Scotland without hiding away at orchestrated events or, in Johnson’s case, sneaking out the back door of Bute House to avoid a drubbing. Johnson’s campaign is already unravelling. Reluctant to travel to Scotland and unnerved by the poor reception he received in flood-damaged South Yorkshire, frays are already showing on his entirely contrived image as a likeable if bumbling leader.

Johnson is a fraud and the more he comes within a 100 yards of real people, the more his act falls apart.

Protesters at a campaign visit near Glastonbury held up placards with one single irrefutable word – twat. Back in South Yorkshire, sensing he had misread a national disaster, he was chastised by countless locals and then made an Etonian hash of mopping a floor, as if the mop was a foreign object. I almost sensed he was waiting on the vintage Scottish actor Molly Weir to save the day, with a wee bit of advice and a packet of Flash. Meeting the people is a necessity flawed with unforeseen pitfalls. Jo Swinson’s visit to North East Fife, the hyper-marginal constituency in which the SNP’s Stephen Gethins is defending a slender majority against the LibDems’ Wendy Chamberlain, was on the surface pitch-perfect. It was staged visit at Demperston Farm, near Auchtermuchty, the base of Crafty Maltsters – the barley and cereal company that are part of Scotland’s modern craft beer revolution. So far so hip, reaching out to both a renewed rural economy and the modern bar flys of St Andrews and the East Neuk.

But Swinson’s visits to Scotland raise a problem unique to her – why is she not here more often since her constituency is in Scotland.

As Swinson travels extensively across the UK each televised sound bite reminds voters at home of her frequent absences from her own constituency in East Dunbartonshire, where Amy Callaghan of the SNP is working ferociously to close the gap. Visiting Scotland is becoming a fascinating sub-plot in this election. Emotions will only intensify as the nights gets colder and the huddled die-hards out canvassing brave worsening weather to chap on doors and fill in their party returns.

The SNP is taking legal action against ITV for failing to reflect the party’s dominant status in Scotland. Whether that provokes a climb down or not will almost certainly be a media sideshow when set against the armies of activists that are already pounding the streets of Scotland talking to voters directly. I remain a romantic advocate of street politics. I have an instinctive sense that the ice-cold gangs knocking on doors with their mittens are making a big impression, and equally, the vast swathes of marchers that have taken the independence cause the length and breadth of Scotland have had an impact too.

In very different ways they are normalising self-determination, for those that are not yet convinced. The media predicted that an election in December was bad news for democracy. I think the opposite applies here in Scotland, where the hardy armies are rising to the challenge and almost relishing the winter nights. Like bagging munros or loony dipping in the Firth of Forth, there is a strand of the Scottish character that warms to the cold.

It’s early days yet but I suspect that Conservative Party Headquarters in London are assessing whether it is worth sending Boris Johnson to the bleak cold north again. His campaign has been a farce so far, snagged by floods and the bumbling casualness he thinks wins votes, the last thing he needs is to go walkies on the streets of Dundee. It would be a catastrophe of Churchillian proportions.