SO now we know the spurious reasons Westminster is serving up to justify tearing up the principles of devolution and telling uppity Scotland exactly how little power it has within the confines of the Union.

The KC acting for UK ministers at the Court of Session spelled out the ridiculous nature of its veto on gender reform legislation passed by MSPs of all political parties at the Scottish Parliament.

If David Johnston was embarrassed by the convoluted nature of his argument at a Court of Session bid by Scottish ministers to overturn the veto, he certainly did his best not to show it.

So here’s what we’re supposed to believe – and listen carefully. It’s not exactly easy to follow.

Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack argues that the Scottish gender reforms cut across the UK-wide 2010 Equality Act.

How so? Because the procedure for changing a person’s gender is now different north and south of the Border and thus, says Jack, the process of acquiring a gender recognition certificate is materially different in Scotland, which changes a law over which the Scottish Parliament has no jurisdiction.

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To which the normal response is “So what?” So far, Jack has been unable to come up with a single way in which the gender reforms have any impact at all on the UK Equality Act. Indeed, when challenged way back in January to define exactly what the much-contested gender recognition certificate actually does under the reforms, the Scottish Secretary was unable to comply.

To help him out, here’s what it does: it helps trans people to update their birth certificate, get married or engage in a civil partnership and have their death registered, all in the gender with which they identify.

It also removes the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from the process and lowers the age people can apply from 18 to 16.

What it does not do – despite Jack’s scare tactics – is have any impact whatsoever on who can access single-sex spaces because a gender recognition certificate is not a condition of entry.

So if Holyrood’s gender reforms in no way affect the effect of the certificate but simply make it easier to change then how on earth does it impact on the Equality Act? And why would Westminster go to the extraordinary lengths of imposing never-before-used legislation to impose a veto? The National: Anas Sarwar's commitment to further devolution appears to have vanishedAnas Sarwar's commitment to further devolution appears to have vanished

Simply because it is yet another attempt by Westminster to dilute and then dismantle devolution because it has encouraged Scots to take different decisions from their masters in London. Which is very much not what devolution was designed to do.

It’s no secret that Tony Blair’s Labour Party were determined to deliver devolution as a means to take the heat out of the independence debate forever. Throw Scotland a bone and it would seize that and forget that nonsense about wanting to take all the big decisions about its own future.

It’s instructive to consider the arrogance that lay behind that decision. Labour had been in power in Scotland at every level and for so long that they would simply ratify that position by winning permanent control of the Scottish Parliament.

Sure, the different electoral system would create the illusion of sharing power with the smaller parties but Labour would remain very much in control of Scotland.

That way Holyrood would work in cohort with a Labour government in Westminster and act as a welcome ally for the national party during those periods when the Tories were in power.

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Neither Labour nor the Tories could imagine a world in which another party would wrest power away in the Scottish Parliament, far less a party which supported the principle of independence, which they were convinced had all but faded away.

Certainly Labour have never come to terms with how far and fast Scotland has fallen out of love with them. Let’s bide our time, senior Labour figures advised, and we will be restored to our rightful position as Scotland’s overlord.

Even the much-touted but overhyped Labour revival in opinion polls has now stumbled. Recent polling gave still relatively new First Minister Humza Yousaf an 11-point lead on the eve of a Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election that Labour desperately need to win to justify their comeback being taken even halfway seriously.

There are currently no indications that Labour have learned any significant lessons through their fall from grace in Scotland.

The party north of the Border currently looks more and more like the branch office it was described as by former Scottish leader Johann Lamont way back in 2014.

Key vows made by Labour’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar had to be either diluted or withdrawn on the order of Keir Starmer following U-turn after U-turn by the party’s UK (i.e. real) leadership.

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Perhaps most embarrassing was the swift retreat from opposition to the Tories’ two-child benefit cap. Their withdrawal of support for the gender reforms which its own MSPs and Scottish leader had voted for was scarcely more edifying.

So while the Scottish Government was going to court in defence of devolution, Scottish Labour were meekly accepting instructions from the UK party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner not to back a call for the devolution of employment law.

That would mean Sarwar going back on a manifesto pledge to support exactly that extension of devolution.

It would be unbelievable but for the fact it is just the latest in a long line of policies put forward by Scottish Labour only to be hastily withdrawn when clashing with Starmer’s desperate desire to be seen as the acceptable face of right-wing Conservatism.

The Labour Party’s promises to stand up for Scotland lie in tatters as U-turn after U-turn show them to be more concerned with toeing the London line than actually doing … well, anything really.

It’s not just their support for the devolution of employment law and the promise to scrap the two-child benefits cap that have bitten the dust. The devolution of drug laws was also backed by Sarwar but ditched.

The National: Tony BlairIn fact, there are no Tory policies deemed so vile and cruel that they are worthy of Labour action if it means the Scottish Parliament gets even a smidgeon of extra power.

What inspires this knee-jerk reaction? Surely it is not that the Scottish Parliament has failed to use the limited powers it already has for the benefit of those most in need of help in this country? Indeed, the opposite is true according to an Oxford professor.

Danny Dorling this week described the Scottish Child Payment as responsible for the biggest reduction in inequality caused by a single policy change since the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Initiatives like this show how effective the Scottish Parliament can be ... so why has the Labour Party so staunchly set its face against giving it the ability to do even more?

It can only be because the party leadership’s commitment to the Union prevents it from strengthening the parliament even when it is manifestly in the country’s best interests to do so.

Labour now face a major challenge over how they respond to moves at the upcoming SNP conference to navigate a route to independence given Westminster’s determination to block any chance of a second referendum.

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A motion tabled for next month’s conference co-signed by Yousaf and Westminster leader Stephen Flynn argues that winning the most number of seats at the next UK General Election would trigger independence negotiations.

SNP MP Pete Wishart has put forward an amendment stating that the trigger for negotiations should be independence parties winning a majority of votes rather than seats.

Starmer and Sarwar have so far been united in their opposition to indyref2. If they oppose both these latest suggestions, they will be effectively ruling out any legal route to give Scotland any say in its own future.

Labour’s commitment to democracy is already hanging by a thread after their UK leadership’s continual undermining of devolution. Shutting the door on any decision on independence would surely destroy it forever.