In his thought-provoking new book, “The End of British Politics?”, Michael Moran identifies what he calls the “benchmarks” underlying his thesis.

The first was the election of a minority SNP government in 2007, followed by its 2011 landslide, the independence referendum of 2014 and the subsequent “descent” of the Scottish Labour Party.

Following last week’s local government election, Moran’s thesis looks superficially weaker. Not only are the Conservatives becoming a more “British” party once again, but the identifiable “Unionist” vote at play, on Thursday and doubtless on 8 June, implies there’s still life in Britain yet.

But he’s right that the “British politics” that held sway between the First World War and the 1960s is now a thing of the past. Since 1707 the Anglo-Scottish Union has had several defining missions, religious, Imperialist and latterly social democratic, but a coherent 21st-century Unionism has yet to emerge, nor is it likely to.

Sure, the Scottish Conservatives are clearly doing well by harnessing cross-party opposition to a second independence referendum, but that hardly constitutes a coherent political philosophy, or indeed a sustainable strategy. Considerable flesh needs to be put on those oppositionalist bones.

Last week Nicola Sturgeon accused the Tories of having a “constitutional obsession”, but in truth all parties do. In the 1980s and 1990s Scottish Labour made the campaign for a devolved parliament the defining issue in Scottish politics, and once that was delivered, the supposedly “big idea” of independence quickly took a similarly dominant place in political discourse.

This happened, frankly, because it was easier to posture about constitutional panaceas than actually get on with the hard stuff. As Michael Moran points out, a decade of devolution has accompanied the continued decline of the Scottish industrial economy, now founded on “whisky exports, the wasting asset of oil, and work in the defence industries”. He might also have mentioned education, something else devolution was supposed to fix.

Yet it’s difficult to make points like that because the success or failure of devolution (and independence) is viewed in primarily nationalist terms, not on the basis of a balance sheet. The SNP has recently taken to claiming that the “gains” of devolution are under threat from a Tory landslide next month, although neither the specific threat nor the nature of those gains is particularly clear.

This does not absolve the Prime Minister of blame, far from it, for she’s now playing pretty much the same game. Last week she stood outside Downing Street and said the European Commission was trying to influence the outcome of the forthcoming general election, paranoid nonsense that brought to mind the First Minister’s warning a few months ago that mysterious Tory “factions” were intent on undermining Scotland’s devolution settlement.

With considerable hutzpah, Ms Sturgeon responded by accusing Mrs May of using Europe as a “bogeyman”, but then of course nationalists need external enemies; the SNP has “Westminster” and the Tories “Brussels”, just as a weird hotch-potch of American ideologues have “Washington”. And now, in an even weirder twist, the Scottish Conservatives have a second independence referendum.

Ruth Davidson’s even borrowing language from the nationalist playbook. Only she, we’re told ad nauseam, can “stand up” to the SNP and lead the “fightback” against another “divisive” referendum, while voters are urged to “send a message” to the Scottish Government, all the sort of things Labour and the SNP used to wield against the Tories back in the 1980s.

The sociologist Michael Billig once described the habit established Western nations had of pushing what they considered undesirable nationalism to the “periphery” of political debate, depicting it as extreme (i.e. Mrs May on her recent campaigning visit to Aberdeenshire), while conveniently ignoring their own “banal” nationalism, the nationalism of making Britain “great” again and Eurocrats plotting the UK’s demise in Belgian cafes.

“Our” nationalism being better than “their” nationalism is another age-old claim, thus the First Minister’s comments yesterday that Ruth Davidson leads a “hard-line Ukip-style Tory party” that sees an electoral chance to “dismantle the progress we’ve made as a country”. The SNP, naturally, will provide a “strong voice”, whatever that might mean. For anyone paying attention, the increasing vapidity of both Nationalists and Unionists is staggering.

There’s no poetry, not even any workmanlike prose. Think back on this election campaign (or rather campaigns) so far and try and identify anything genuinely interesting that’s been uttered by Ms Sturgeon or Mrs May. Unless you’re one of the converted, you’d struggle: nothing about falling wages, nothing about the prospect of thousands of jobs becoming automated, nothing about the environment, just platitudes, debating points and campaign slogans. Even the new Gallic saviour across the English Channel has plenty of style but no real answers.

Politicians have collectively decided that policy simply bores people and, most likely, gets in the way, and instead they’re pandering to what they assume are voters’ base instincts. You don’t even have to be any good to win an election. Look at the SNP, a mediocre decade in power and they’re still stacking up “emphatic” wins, and Mrs May, an equally mediocre Home Secretary who’s now headed for a landslide.

Look closely and Mayism and Sturgeonism are pretty much the same opportunistic mish-mash of left and right, whatever-works, give-the-people-what-they-want (or rather tell them what they want to hear) nonsense. And when it comes to their respective constitutional fantasies we’re simply expected to believe that everything will be all right on the night. And of course, if you dare question or probe such simplicities, you’re guilty of “talking” Britain or Scotland “down”.

Depressingly, I know many otherwise intelligent, nuanced people who willingly go along with all this. I have Tory friends who genuinely view Mrs May as Mrs Thatcher reincarnated and SNP friends who sincerely believe the First Minister is the world’s leading social democratic thinker. It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes, but without the dénouement in which the once enthusiastic crowd finally sees there’s nothing there, no easy solution to lots of big, difficult problems.

All they can offer is nationalism, taking back “control” or delivering “independence”, both simplistic twaddle, 19th-century solutions to 21st-century problems. Michael Moran was diplomatic enough to use a question mark in the title of his book, but it wasn’t necessary. British and Scottish politics, at least anything resembling a serious conversation, ended a long time ago.