DEVOLUTION increasingly feels like a DVD player in the age of the internet – quaint, clunky and buffering towards obsolescence.

You do not need to look hard to find the flaws in the current ­constitutional ­settlement – they have been springing up ­everywhere.

There were the last-gasp demands on the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), the ­confused messages being circulated about the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) scheme in Glasgow and the thoroughly patronising and inept performances by Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland. His ­conduct in front of Scottish politicians is openly hostile to the nation he claims to care about.

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It is now screamingly obvious that Jack intends to take a belligerent attitude to ­devolution and is resistant to any further powers for Scotland. His interpretation of what are reserved powers and what are ­devolved is draconian and inflexible and will ultimately undermine the Union that Jack claims to be lovingly protecting.

It was Mark Drakeford, the First ­Minister of Wales, who came to ­Scotland’s defence when questioned about the late impediments to Scotland’s DRS, rightly arguing that by ­excluding glass from the Scottish scheme it was Westminster that was “the outlier” and not the devolved administration.

We currently have a Secretary of State that is a man of curdled absolutes. His ­demeaning tone speaking to those elected to represent Scotland not only ­demonstrates an unpalatable superiority complex, it has also exposed his deeply flawed interpretation of the concept of reserved matters.

The Scottish Secretary ended a ­session by stating a series of givens, which he variously described as a “matter of fact”, not at all “difficult to understand” and “entirely clear”. The problem is that they are nothing of the sort.

We not only live in a complicated world where policy issues overlap or impinge on each other, we exist in very different ­versions of Scotland apparently framed by those things that devolution permits and those it doesn’t.

Alas, that is where Jack’s problem really begins. Although he asserts the simplicity of devolution, it is not at all clear what reserved business is, nor should it be ­invoked to restrict Scotland’s ambitions.

Jack is clearly enraged by the offices that Scotland has opened across the world, which he sees as a breach of the reserved status of foreign affairs. But Scotland’s more than 30 offices across the globe are neither embassies nor ­consulates in the formal sense, but hubs for trade and ­investment, areas of our public life that are effectively devolved to Scotland and in some cases always have been.

A photograph posted recently on ­social media by External Affairs ­Secretary ­Angus Robertson must have been a ­dagger to Jack’s heart. It showed a meeting at Scotland House in Brussels in which Scotland’s guest was the chief executive of Hydrogen Europe, who was there to discuss Scotland’s hydrogen production capabilities.

Scotland is consistently one of the ­highest-performing regions of Europe for attracting inward investment, a ­factor driven by workforce talent, a highly ­educated population and global ­reputations in food and drink, tourism, nanotechnology and satellite production.

The latest EY Attractiveness ­Survey Scotland confirms that 122 inward investment projects were secured in Scotland in 2021, up from 107 the previous year. This was a 14% increase compared with rises of 1.8% across the UK and 5.4% in ­Europe. It seems that Scotland’s investment hubs globally are future-facing too. Digital ­projects in Scotland rose by 73.6%, in contrast to a 7% decline in Europe and 7% growth in the UK overall.

It is not entirely clear why Jack feels these offices are somehow breaching his narrowly conceived protocols – are there not enough empire biscuits, are the ­corridors denuded of Union Jack bunting or did a receptionist fail to recognise him?

If it offends his narrow constitutional rules then he needs to accept that it’s a state of affairs that most Scots can live with. Bringing jobs and wealth to ­Scotland is more important than abiding by Unionist ritual or by a hat-doffing ­hierarchy.

Equally, it is clear that in Jack’s mind, military adventurism and the right to ­engage in foreign wars is not devolved. Nor is the policy of storing nuclear ­warheads in ­Scotland. Jack is crystal clear whose responsibility that is and he even huffily concluded a session in which he was grilled by shuffling his papers together and saying that what is reserved business is a matter of fact. Alas it is not.

The warheads at Faslane might be for Westminster to fetishise but what if they leak, and what about the risk when they are drawn through Scotland by lorry? Then they cease to become a reserved matter and become an urgent matter of public health and safety, which we know is devolved and always has been.

Devolution of power is fundamental to good governance and even to good ­workplace management but it can also ­become a mechanism for restricting and limiting power – famously, “a power ­devolved is a power retained”.

We were given an excellent metaphor of the current constitutional situation by the BBC Scotland broadcaster Martin Geissler in an interview with Lorna Slater, the Minister for Circular Economy and the lead minister for the Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland. When Westminster, undoubtedly nudged by Jack, insisted that glass be excluded from the scheme, it led to a last-minute showdown in which Geissler described it as the “lead tugging the dog”.

Many ran to criticise the inelegant phrase but for me it nailed one of the ­central failures of devolution – ­Scotland is on a lead and all the posturing about ­Gordon Brown’s new federal ­arrangement does not eliminate that hard and ­incontrovertible fact.

You can set your watch by Gordon. Every time there’s a forthcoming election or renewed enthusiasm for the Labour Party, he lumbers on to the boards like a Shakespearean tragedian of the past.

No-one doubts his right to wear the costumes of brooding and wounded ­statecraft but his soliloquies vary only ­minutely from a speech he has given a million times. It is a plea to a different Britain, and to a different England – one that redistributes power with the magic wave of his crooked wand.

It is federal, it is intellectually beyond what he and his followers see as the ­vulgar simplicity of independence, but it is a ­vision deeply tarnished by the ­evidence of the past.

Brown imagines a future beyond ­devolution as if the convulsions since 2014 had not happened, and his intellectual ­impatience cannot be bothered with the trivia of events like the Smith ­Commission in which the Labour Party voted against almost every change he now dangles.

A report authored by Brown for the Labour Party and endorsed by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham recommends abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a new, democratic upper chamber.

Few would deny that has a bold appeal but it has been a Labour mantra since its founding days and there is precious little evidence of the party’s genuine commitment to the idea. Sending an endless line of indentured has-beens to the ermine outfitters, Ede and Ravenscroft, in Chancery Lane, does not fill you full of confidence for this new and exciting Britain.

Brown may have a vision of the future but does Baron George Foulkes of Cumnock or Baron George Robertson of Port Ellen share this exciting vision?