SCOTLAND has never been the easiest audience for Conservative Prime Ministers. Certain types of Tory can also seriously backfire with Scottish voters, which is probably why Ruth Davidson reportedly barred Boris Johnson from making an appearance at the Scottish party conference in Aberdeen. It was the right decision.

As it was, an important part of Theresa May’s speech was pitched directly at the city in which she delivered it: Aberdeen. The slowdown in the oil and gas industry since 2014 has cost thousands of jobs in the north-east and Mrs May’s announcement of a new underwater engineering base could help the sector recover by diversifying in the only viable long-term direction: fossil fuels. It is a welcome and promising move.

However, Mrs May’s speech to the Scottish conference was also significant for what it didn’t say about recent events. There was no significant analysis of the local election results in England, which were disastrous for the Conservatives and pretty calamitous for Labour too.

Most of us, though, can see the results for what they are: a stark reflection of how politics has changed in England and indeed the rest of the UK. Brexit across the UK and independence in Scotland have become the dominant subjects in the minds of voters and which parties they support is largely determined by where they stand on those issues. It is why the Tories and Labour did so badly in the English elections, and it is why in the coming European elections we can expect many Scottish voters to support the anti-Brexit SNP even though they do not support independence.

Faced with this electoral resilience from the SNP, Mrs May used her speech to attack what she called Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with independence, and Ms Davidson said she would be happy if there was never another referendum on the issue, but it is hard to see how the over-riding of old political affiliations by Scottish independence and Brexit is going to change back again. It is also hard to work out from what Theresa May has said on the subject how she proposes to break the current political paralysis on Brexit.

Ms Davidson’s view is that the English election results should now focus minds in the Conservative and Labour parties and that a compromise on Brexit can be reached but the UK Government has not said what will happen if the talks between the two sides go nowhere. Which leaves the only option which political logic has been dictating for months now: another referendum on Brexit.

Some say it would resolve nothing, but if the answer in such a vote was another yes to leaving the EU, the parties would surely have to implement it this time; if it is no, then Brexit would be cancelled. Either way, with both Labour and the Conservatives in crisis, a second referendum is on the only realistic way forward.

To hail a hero

To hail a hero

IT WAS a deeply moving moment: the hearse carrying the Celtic and Scotland footballer Billy McNeill driving slowly past his old ground. The wreath spelled out his name in white; the fans showed how they felt with applause; Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said it was the grief of a family – a sporting family.

Every one of the fans at Celtic Park knows the record of their hero: he was arguably the club’s greatest captain, he was a success as its manager and he was the first British footballer to lift the European Cup, as skipper of the Lisbon Lions. There aren’t many football CVs like it.

However, the story of Billy McNeill has extra significance. It is a reminder of the emotional power of the hero – on a pitch, on a stage, or on a TV screen. But the story is also a reminder of football’s ability to transform ordinary boys into extraordinary men.

In a society where social mobility is under threat, that is more important than ever.