EVERY night, when Nicola Sturgeon retires to her bed, she could be forgiven for sleeping on a pillow with the Prime Minister’s smiling face on it.

If the leader of the Scottish Nationalists could dream up the ideal political opponent to do constitutional battle with, he would bear a striking resemblance to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a quintessentially English Tory whose jocular Woosterish appeal with voters diminishes the further north you travel from the Home Counties.

It was not by chance during the three-year run-in to the 2014 independence poll that Mr Johnson was not once seen making a high-profile visit to the Scottish campaign. David Cameron wisely thought one Old Etonian toff on the stump was more than enough.

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Late last year, senior Tory sources confided that party candidates would be lining up, privately, to urge Boris to stay well away from Scotland in the weeks before the May 6 poll.

In January, during his controversial Covid-related trip to Glasgow and Livingston, the PM, when asked about the Holyrood elections, declared bullishly: “As for campaigning, wild horses won’t keep me away.”

But serious doubt has been raised that the self-proclaimed Minister for the Union will not manage to find time in his diary over the next three weeks to venture northwards to campaign for the Conservative cause in Scotland. 

And yet in recent days he has managed Covid-secure visits to Cheshire, Cornwall and Devon and is still planning a trip later this month to India, where a coronavirus tsunami is engulfing the country.

Indeed, both Sir Keir Starmer for Labour and Ed Davey for the Liberal Democrats have ventured over Hadrian’s Wall to campaign for their Scottish parties. However, Douglas Ross has detected the sound of galloping hooves, which might indeed keep his Conservative chum from pinning a blue rosette to his lapel and 
hitting the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh or Moray.

“I am not sure he is going to come up. I had previously expected him to come up,” declared the Scottish Tory leader, adding: “Clearly, as we continue to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, this whole election is very different.”

Labour bounce?

THE fear now within blue circles is that Labour, under its new leader Anas Sarwar, could see a honeymoon bounce and push the Conservatives into third place at Holyrood. 

If Boris does indeed become the invisible man of the Holyrood campaign and confine himself to England – and India – dare I suggest it will not go unnoticed.

Tory strategists might conclude better to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged 
Nationalists than the horror of an SNP majority at Holyrood.

While senior Conservatives have suggested publicly all the PM need do in the face of the separatists gaining an overall majority is “just keep saying no” to indyref2, others privately believe this is politically untenable.

READ MORE: SNP MPs ‘have no ideas and no desire for indy’ claim Alba members

Indeed, it has been suggested some senior Tories want Boris to catch the SNP on the hop by calling a snap referendum himself.

One UK Cabinet minister observed: “I don’t see how we keep saying no forever.

"The time to do it would be in the middle of economic chaos, not when it’s all looking rosy.” Dare I also suggest Scottish voters might detect the slightest whiff of shameless cynicism were Mr Johnson, having shouted from the rooftops now was not the time for constitutional conflict, to reverse-ferret and initiate indyref2 

Of course, seven years ago, Ms Sturgeon and Alex Salmond insisted the referendum on Scotland’s future was a once-in-a-generation vote to maximise support for independence. 

Scottish voters are fully aware of this. Yet, nonetheless, it seems certain that they will, by a clear majority, say they want another one.

All Conservative energies now seem to be focused on preventing that SNP majority from materialising as it was this, achieved by the party led by Salmond in 2011, that convinced Mr Cameron to concede a vote on Scotland’s place in the Union.

But a big silence has descended on one aspect of the referendum debate. 

Number 10 has been adamant it will not answer the question about what Mr 
Johnson would do if Ms Sturgeon did get a Holyrood majority. 

Yet, the PM in his speech to the Scottish Conservatives’ spring conference insisted it was only by voting Tory that people could prevent indyref2 from happening.

And the Scottish Conservatives warned voters in a campaign tweet: “With just four more seats, the SNP will win a majority and hold another divisive independence referendum. 

You can stop it but only by giving your party list vote to the @ScotTories.”

Wildcat poll

THE question is: would that be a poll reluctantly sanctioned by Westminster, as in the case of the 2014 vote, or would that be a poll the SNP has insisted it will hold anyway, by dint of a simple Holyrood majority in favour of Indyref2 – the so-called Catalan-style "wildcat poll”?

The FM has argued if there is a simple pro-indyref2 majority come May 7, Mr Johnson will concede defeat and push the button on a second vote. 

Politics, of course, is full of irony. 

Having publicly lambasted Boris for turning up to visit vaccine facilities in Scotland, SNP leaders may well be privately praying the blonde Beatle does indeed pay another visit to Scotland, preferably as near to polling day as possible.

It could be that Tory HQ has concluded a prime ministerial visit to Scotland in the current political circumstances is simply too big a risk and Ms Sturgeon will have to dream on. 

Yet, if voters choose to give the head Nat her majority, the PM’s nightmare will have only just begun.