HOW strange it is to see Theresa May popping up in the news. It should not be; she is, after all, still the Prime Minister. Yet it is always a surprise to clock her again, large as life, like some minor celeb you thought was long gone suddenly turning up on afternoon telly to flog funeral insurance.You still here, dear?

Instead of slinking off quietly, she is packing everything she can into the final weeks before the removal van arrives. She wants an extra £27 billion for education, she wants the BBC to think again about scrapping free licences for the over-75s, and now, as The Herald’s Michael Settle revealed yesterday, she wants the Union to drop a love bomb on Scotland to head off a second independence referendum.

READ MORE: New PM's war chest to crush indyref2

It seems Mrs May came back emboldened and inspired from her visit to Scotland last week. She had heard the news that the Union was in danger as never before due to the looming prospect of a Johnson premiership. She was not the only one who thought so. Gordon Brown, her Labour predecessor, had recently raised the alarm, as had her de facto deputy, David Lidington. Some professors had weighed in too. It was official: the Union in crisis was becoming “a thing”. We know what happens when a matter becomes “a thing” – something must be done about it. Hence the plan, put to Cabinet, for a war chest to dig into regularly and promote the benefits of the Union to Scots.

Talk about late to the party. What next? A Cabinet discussion on the advisability of closing stable doors before the horses bolt? A paper on making one stitch to save nine? One wonders where on Earth Mrs May has been for the past few years if she is only waking up to the fact that all is not well in the Union.

The prospect of a Prime Minister Johnson has, predictably, boosted support for independence. Without him, one poll put the split at 51-49 against Scotland going it alone. With him, the numbers flipped to 53% for independence and 47% opposing.

READ MORE: Letters - a nation under siege

While many Scots have long been immune to the alleged charms of Mr Johnson, those still of a mind to give him a chance need have only watched Tuesday’s debate on ITV between the former Foreign Secretary and the current one, Jeremy Hunt, his rival for the job of party and UK leader. Away from Brexit, on which Mr Johnson has his populist lines down pat by now, his grasp of detail was absent to a shocking degree. On subject after subject, whether it was his tax cut plans, his bungling over the jailed British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, or if he might prorogue parliament to force Brexit through without a deal, he could not or would not give a coherent answer. Never mind not wanting to buy a used car from this man: I would think twice about asking him the time.

Like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, Mr Johnson is a joke that ceased to be funny long ago, if it ever was. Voters will tolerate idiots, they have certainly had enough practice down the years, but a fool with power is dangerous. Add Mr Johnson’s hefty sense of entitlement into the mix and you have a toxic cocktail indeed.

Most nauseating of all on Tuesday was his failure to stand up for Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the US, whose scathing diplomatic cables about the Trump administration were leaked to a Sunday paper. Mr Johnson did not join in the President’s mauling of the diplomat, but he repeatedly refused to give any assurance that Sir Kim would have a job under him. To no-one’s surprise, Sir Kim resigned yesterday, something you can bet Mr Johnson will not do should he fail to deliver Brexit on October 31.

What dashed convenient timing that the ambassador should quit now, just before Mr Johnson has jobs to fill. It was significant that Sir Simon McDonald, head of the diplomatic service, yesterday called the leak “malicious” and paid tribute to the way Sir Kim had served his country with dignity, professionalism and class. “You are the best of us,” he concluded. No-one said anything like that when Mr Johnson left the Foreign Office. Once a nasty piece of work (copyright Eddie Mair), always a nasty piece of work.

READ MORE: Who won the ITV debate?

The only consolation when watching Mr Johnson on manoeuvres is that the very people now praising him to the hilt are the ones who will turn on him in time, and when they do so they will make the moderate critics of today look like his best friends.

If Conservative defenders of the Union want to show Scotland some love they have a lot of catching up to do. Nor does the task only fall to the Conservatives: Labour in London should be giving thought to it also.

For the Conservatives, it is hard to settle on how far back to go. Each will have his or her own idea. A strong contender for the title of “the day the rot truly set in” has to be the moment in 2012 when David Cameron and two colleagues came up with the cunning plan to hold a referendum on membership of the EU as a sop to the right of their party. Their problem, and their answer to it, is now everyone’s problem. This was a failure of leadership of epic scale on Cameron’s part.

The party has become so consumed by its loathing of the EU that it would, according to a recent YouGov poll, rather go out of existence than not push through with Brexit.

Members would also wave cheerio to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and see the UK economy significantly damaged – all prices worth paying, apparently, to leave the EU.

Now John Major is threatening to take a Tory Government to court to stop it closing parliament temporarily in order to leave the EU without a deal. When one of your own, a former PM, has to stage an intervention to save you from yourself it is time to wake up and smell the madness.

For all these reasons, and more, spending a few more bawbees from the UK Government’s marketing budget (itself a relatively measly £440 million) on promoting the Union just won’t cut it. Indeed it would be laughable if events had not led us to such a serious pass. Save the Union? This lot cannot even save themselves.