THIS paper’s series of articles that illustrate “Independence is Normal” is a useful and factual confirmation that independence is indeed the default position for virtually every nation in the world – 193 at the last count, all members of the United Nations, and all with a seat in the UN General Assembly.

Twenty-seven of them also sit round the European Union table and prosper as a result. Many EU member states are smaller than Scotland but are doing far better. Ireland, for example, will have a substantial – almost embarrassing – budget surplus over the next couple of years while, to take just one other example, Finland, also with a higher standard of living than Scotland, is presently moving out of a shallow recession into moderate growth.

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There are many more such facts that need to be discussed as part of our national conversation and it is therefore not surprising that intelligent commentators with strong and lived political experience – people like Kezia Dugdale – are increasingly open to considering in public how we might move forward together, though it is also understandable that they get alienated by the ignorant and petty tribalism from some on both sides of the constitutional divide which too often greets such laudable attempts.

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Of course, if you are not open-minded, then there are more limited options available in terms of a response. You can simply deny that Scotland is a nation – a favourite among right-wing Tories – but that sort of ridiculous flat-earthism is easy to refute. Or you can choose to waffle like North East Scotland Labour MSP Michael Marra (above) did when talking on radio about the GERS figures.

Unable to suggest why other small nations could prosper while Scotland lags behind, he was reduced to explaining it all with the words “Scotland is Scotland”, eerily echoing Theresa May’s empty, disastrous rhetorical mantra of “Brexit is Brexit”.

Even that incoherence is better, however, than lying – and regrettably it is lies that Keir Starmer seems now to depend upon to save his Labour Party from the consequences of fishing in the shark-infested waters of Tory populism.

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No-one could doubt the thirst that Starmer has for power. It is understandable and given the disastrous consequences of 13 years of Tory misrule, even slightly creditable. But as the Bible observes, what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?

In political terms, the answer to that is stark and there are lots of examples from which Keir could learn. If you come to power on Tory votes, pretending (or even convincing yourself) that much of the discriminatory, dehumanising, deceitful Tory policy baggage just needs a bit of tweaking by good chaps like him to make it fine and fit for purpose, then you have already sown the seeds of your own political destruction.

The truth is that if you win with Tory policies, you have to govern with Tory policies.

These days, party leaders can, as Boris Johnson (below) proved, lie about almost anything – particularly promises – and get away with it.

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It is harder, though, to get away with lying about things that are written down and incontrovertible, like laws, or constitutions, or standing orders – and here is where Starmer came a real cropper on his visit to the Rutherglen by-election seat, on being questioned about the Scotland Act Section 35 order that is shortly to be before the courts and which nullifies the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA) passed last December. He was reported as saying that that bit of Westminster legislation was “not a blocking mechanism but an enabling one”.

We now know that the Tory Secretary of State against Scotland, Alister Jack, was largely responsible for insisting that this power of Westminster veto be used for the first time against any devolved legislation, despite strong reservations in the civil service. Indeed, it is probably the first time that a bill which has passed all of its legislative stages in any UK parliament has been refused royal assent since Queen Anne vetoed the Scottish Militia Bill in 1708.

We also know that, no matter one’s views on the issue of gender recognition, the GRA was passed at Holyrood by a substantial majority. There were 86 votes in favour and 39 against with four members not voting. The affirmative vote came from members of all the parties represented.

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Consequently, the excuse that Jack is using to try to negate Scottish democracy is very flimsy but, of course, all that he needs to secure from the courts is a view that he was acting within his powers. His malice, arrogance and indeed moral right to take what is a partisan political act for partisan political reasons will not be placed on the legal scales.

But there is no doubt whatsoever that Section 35 is a blocking move. It stops legislation being given royal assent. It kills a bill. It asserts the absolute rights of a Westminster minister in a government not elected by Scotland over the clearly expressed will of a Scottish Parliament elected by the Scottish people.

That is what Section 35 does and that is what its words say it does, including the actual word “prohibiting”.

Starmer is therefore telling a lie because Section 35 enables nothing but the negation of a law which was and is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament and which in this case passed all its stages with majority cross-party support including, at the final stage, 18 out of the 22 Labour MSPs.

Like it or not, anyone voting Labour now is voting to stay out of the EU, to enforce the two-child cap on benefits, to keep the worst workers’ protections in Europe and to dangerously play down the effects of climate change. That much is clear.

Starmer, however, has now taken his lurch to the right one step further.

Lying moves him on from emulating the Tories in style to emulating them in substance as well.