EVEN if you accept the sincerity of Boris Johnson’s one-nation Conservatism it’s still good fun to pick it apart at its patchwork seams. What sort of nation does the Prime Minister have in mind? Mr Johnson and other disciples of the hard right would like us to believe that adding the locution "one-nation" to their credo immediately renders it all woke and fluffy. The concept, of course, is about as credible as vegan sharks.

What remains of the Conservative Party after the harrowing of its entire moderate wing now resembles a whited sepulchre, a graven ornament concealing decay and degradation. The one nation imagined by Benjamin Disraeli and refined by Rab Butler and Stanley Baldwin has become a shrivelled and corrupt entity in the hands of Mr Johnson and the acolytes of his Brexit cult, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Those old champions of authentic, one-nation Conservatism had a belief in human kindness which they rather naively felt might address the problems of poverty and inequality. At least they recognised what kindness was and had a touching faith that it was possessed by sufficient others of their class.

Johnson’s one nation, though, was created from the body parts of other twisted credos that sew xenophobia, the baiting of minorities and an aversion to human rights. This one has been born of lies about Turkish immigrants and the NHS and permitted to travel on a criminal campaign of dark money and broken spending limits. This one nation of Mr Johnson’s excitable reveries is a lawless place. Here the Prime Minister considers himself to be above normal human regulation in a land where anything that can be justified by “get Brexit done” is considered acceptable.

The comments of Mr Rees-Mogg about the final agonies of the Grenfell Fire victims merely betrayed the absence of any empathy in this Frankenstein Tory Party. And what was shocking about the forced resignation of Alun Cairns, Mr Johnson’s Welsh Secretary, wasn’t the uncertainty over timelines in his relationship with the prospective Tory MP, Ross England, but that there seemed not to be much concern about the deliberate and callous sabotage of a trial involving the rape of a young woman.

The slow and insidious birth of this brand of Conservatism can be traced from the moment David Cameron finally gave up the struggle to keep the dark forces lurking within his party at bay. In the course of this period the SNP has strengthened its position as the natural government of Scotland. It hasn’t had to do much more than retain a sense of basic human decency to maintain its electoral hegemony.

Its stewardship of the sprawling NHS and its uneven suite of education reforms is questionable and it has too often permitted dull managerialism to thwart creativity and radical thinking. Yet, a basic sense of decency lies at the heart of its purpose in these areas; of seeking to level the playing field for those whose families had to struggle against the overwhelming odds set by Mr Johnson’s disciples and from which their families derived their wealth and privilege.

The SNP might be vulnerable in these areas if they were opposed at Holyrood by any party with the requisite quantum of competence and decency. The Scottish Tories, though, have come to resemble wage thieves whose entire output during these last few years amounts to little more than arranging the words "nasty", "divisive" and "referendum" in a meaningful sentence. Labour’s tragedy in Scotland is that in this time of their greatest need they have been served by a succession of leaders whose credentials for running a whelk-stall might be questioned, let alone a grown-up political party. Those whom they might once have relied upon for stability and guidance instead found the rub of ermine and a corporate portfolio too hard to resist.

And so, the SNP, in the course of six election campaigns for Westminster, Holyrood, local government and the European Parliament have been easily triumphant on manifestos that have Scottish independence and a second referendum at their heart. It is a mandate for constitutional change unmatched anywhere and at any time in recent European electoral history. The root of its consistent appeal is the belief, shared annually by Scottish voters that its heart is in the right place even when it gets it wrong. As the iniquities of Brexit and of those who are its chief acolytes are revealed a little more with each week so too is the understanding that the SNP has not yet been contaminated by them. Its announcement yesterday that it will introduce a bill to safeguard the NHS from the predations of Donald Trump and his Downing Street glove-puppet is in keeping with its sense of moral purpose.

Thus far, SNP supporters and the wider Yes movement have been content with winning elections and demonstrating the endurance of support for independence. At the end of polling on December 12 they will probably add another electoral triumph and a further stiffening of the mandate for a second referendum. But then what?

In the unlikely event of a Labour victory, Jeremy Corbyn has spoken airily of granting a second independence referendum at some indeterminate and distant point in his tenure. Boris Johnson simply plays to the dim-witted sensibilities of his Scottish estate-managers by re-stating his intention to deny a Section 30 order. Having promised independence supporters that there will be a second referendum by the end of 2020 the SNP must now show its workings. The party can’t just simply ask the wider Yes movement to wait until the 2021 Holyrood election and say, “when we win that one we’ll ask again; they won’t be able to deny us then.” Will ye, aye?

Earlier this year, party managers strove to belittle and isolate those within its ranks who sought a Plan B that could at least be deployed as a negotiating tool in the face of the UK Government’s obstinacy. Thus if the democratically-conferred mandate for a referendum continued to be denied then there would be a threat to hold one anyway and solicit the endorsement of the EU and the natural law of the land.

If, as expected, the SNP gains another comfortable victory next month it must not contemplate going into the Holyrood election with nothing more than a pledge to get cross and stamp its feet if Scotland’s wishes are denied yet again.