The Prime Minister’s extra-ordinary statement on the supposedly non-existent Scottish Border signals that perhaps we are reaching the end of la drôlette, to use a slangy French description of the Phoney War of 1939 to 1940.

The SNP has been becalmed on its constitutional journey. Whistling for a wind, rogue crewmen in the rigging murmuring, more than a few of them sporting a metaphorical wooden leg, an allegorical hook for a hand and an eyepatch suggestive of hard dunts taken.

The cause of this is simple, the withdrawal of the minority in the Parliament of their consent. If there were to be a referendum organised in Scotland they would not participate. (Fair play to them, they have their position and they could, would and should defend it).

READ MORE: How would an independent Scotland deal with a problem like red China? | Opinion: Neil Mackay

This is a powerful technique — one used by the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland to nullify the first of the UK’s referendums, the Border Poll of 1973, which the ethnic majority (and by extension the UK government) won by a smashing 98.9% to 1.1%.

Without minority consent those results were written in the sand, at low tide.

It was a card that the Unionists could and did also play back. One of the quieter pleasures in life is pointing out to the anti-constitutional, pro-worker left that the only regime in post-war Western Europe over thrown by a strike was Sunningdale — crashed to pieces by the 1974 Loyalist Ulster Workers Council strike. For all the froth of gunmen and street barricades it was the trade unionists at Ballylumford power station that proved decisive.

The strong position of the Westminster government to withhold a Section 30 is built, not on the constitutional architecture of the UK, but on the position of the core No voters from 2014. (They were a majority then, they may or may not be a minority now).

I suspect that is not how it looks from No 10.

But the Border Poll was a side play in a drama much more relevant to today’s PMQs — the abolition of Stormont. Which in its turn was a side-effect of a much less dramatic proposition — that Westminster have a say and some control over the security situation and the deployment of the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland.

Popular memory has it that the ‘the troops went in’ August 1969 — sent by Westminster. In fact Stormont had used the powers of ‘aid to the civil power’ to take control of the garrison in response to the UVF bombing campaign (an actual ‘False Flag’ operation of blessèd memory) in March and April 1969. A campaign which saw the power and the water go off for large parts of the province.

The lever that Westminster could pull was simple: send more troops — who were immediately ‘lost’ to their control, or don’t send any more troops. By ‘lost’ I mean under Stormont’s control.

After the disaster of internment, Westminster wanted more of a say — and the opening gambit was a proposal to repatriate the security and justice functions from Stormont to Westminster.

Faulkner and his Cabinet were having none of it — if Westminster went ahead they would resign and call and win a General Election.

To avoid an inflammatory election Stormont was prorogued, temporarily, by Emergency Powers — and with a 1 year sunset clause.

Why this is relevant is because of the Prime Minister’s fatuous statement in the Commons today that there is no border between Scotland and England.

My reading is that he knows fine well there is one, but that he doesn’t believe it poses any barrier to him imposing his will. If England flares up and Scotland damps down he thinks he will be able to stop any quarantine measures being imposed.

The question that 1972 poses is simple: how?

READ MORE:  Support for Scottish independence surges in new poll as SNP look set for landslide victory at Holyrood elections

How does he compel the Scottish Government? Does he compel the Scottish police? the Scottish NHS? And, if so how?

To prevent the Scottish Government issuing quarantine regulations he doesn’t like he would need to take control of Public Health. To compel the police not to enforce such regulations he would need to take control of them.

But a modern state is not a half-cow hanging in a butchers’ window that you can carve and cut, less so in a medical pandemic. If you want Public Health, you need to Hospitals, and the Ambulance Service, and Social Care, and bits of local government. The Police come as part of set with Courts and Prisons.

He wants to do it in a hurry, he needs to take whole clauses out of the Scotland Bill, whole departments.

And you would get the same response that Faulkner gave in 1972. General Election — an election which Westminster would decisively lose.

I say ‘would’ but I mean ‘won’t’.

Nicola Sturgeon would put a border along the Antonine Wall if it made sense to conquer the virus: Hadrian’s Wall be damned. But she ain’t itching to unroll the barbed wire along any wall.

The issue of a quarantine for English people travelling to Scotland is entirely in Boris Johnson’s hands — he is in charge. Get the virus under control — job’s a good ‘un.

There is a serious point. In the face of the EU, Johnson collapsed on the issue of Northern Ireland remaining a de facto part of the European Union with an extra-ordinary Customs Border running through the UK.

This is just another spray of spume, of bluster, a pose. He, and his myrmidons seem entirely unaware of their weakness. The constitutional architecture of the UK is locked in the past — Westminster has no Guardia Civilia, like Madrid, squatting across the provinces.

The loyalists tried to pull the same trick again in 1977. But the Army killed it, in the control hall of Ballylumford, not the streets.

Michael Gove promises a radical transformation of the UK. This requires consent. The various peoples of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have three times each voted as sovereign people on their constitutional destiny.

It is we now who can withhold our consent, we who can put the paralysis on. There is a lovely chess word Zugzwang — its your turn to go, but if you do, you are screwed.

The wind is picking up, the sails bloom, enceinte, briefly, as gusts come in. La drôlette shifts uneasily.

Johnson’s constitutional position rests on the old No voters, it is to them, we, as always, should turn our attention.