Railways can exert an extraordinary influence upon the psyche, whether one is an onlooker, as in Mr Welsh’s masterpiece, or whether one is speeding to a pre-determined destination.

They can liberate thought or, most notably in the United States of America, they can be engines of transformation, with a quasi-colonial purpose.

Think of the Transcontinental Railroad which straddled the emerging USA in the 19th century. Starting, separately, in Sacramento, California, and Omaha, Nebraska, the two lines eventually merged at Promontory, Utah, in a symbolic act of union.

Now, it would be decidedly pushing things somewhat to suggest that such elevated concepts were in the collective mind of the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) when they breezily declared that their trains would continue to observe English law even when they had crossed the border into Scotland.

Much more probably, LNER were thinking of disruption to passengers – and to the concomitant sales of coffee, biscuits and lager – when they declined, initially, to implement continuing Scottish regulations on Covid distancing.

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Still, that does not prevent us from deriving a source of innocent merriment from the episode, while noting that the issue itself is now under review.

To be fair, this is a tricky one. If you allocate seats under English regulations, do you then ask passengers to shuffle round a bit as the Scottish border nears?

I think I hear the intercom announcement. “We are in sight of Berwick’s Elizabethan Walls. Please change seats, taking care to remove all your personal belongings. Elizabeth in this context refers to the English Queen of that name.”

Understand the dilemma, get the concept. However, did it not occur to LNER or their UK Government owners that there was a question to contemplate at all? Should the review not have come first, rather than as an enforced afterthought?

Some folk are conspiracy theorists. Prolonged immersion in the world of politics has led me, mostly, to the opposite conclusion. Things usually go agley through neglect, indifference or misfortune.

However, it is perhaps mildly amusing that LNER did not apparently spot the signal down the line suggesting that there might be an obstruction ahead.

It is as if, somehow, they could not quite adapt to the concept that Holyrood is entitled to implement different regulations north of the Border.

Indulge me a little further. Trust me, I know I risk sounding far too sonorous here, following the daily wrestle with my mischievous side.

As I contemplated this minor mishap, I could not help recalling the 1953 ruling in the Court of Session by the Lord President, Lord Cooper, in the case of MacCormick v Lord Advocate.

We need not rehearse the entire case (which John MacCormick lost.) Let us simply revisit the comments of Lord Cooper as to the continuity of Scots legal principles following the Union.

He noted that he had “difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament”.

In a recent column, I noted that the occasional propensity to discount the impact of Scottish devolution had been countered by the evident potency of the Scottish Government over Covid. Holyrood, I argued, was demonstrably in charge for Scotland.

However, it would appear from the LNER farrago that there are still occasional outbreaks of self-government side-lining. This is not malice nor cunning. Rather, it is a mind-set which still cannot quite adjust to Scottish governance. A version of the phenomenon discerned by Lord Cooper who was, incidentally, a former Unionist MP.

Enough, Brian. Let us leave LNER to their review. Let us leave Team Sturgeon to their search for helpful clarification.

Let us now consider the other side of this issue. The slow-burning embers of a controversy as to who governs domestic Scotland. A controversy which not infrequently bursts into flame, from spontaneous or deliberate combustion.

Once again, the SNP has complained bitterly that the Conservatives, in the shape of the UK Government, are seeking to take control of spending decisions which should, they argue, remain devolved to Holyrood.

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Once again, the Conservatives reply that the SNP, in the shape of the Scottish Government, should recall that Scotland remains part of the Union and that the UKG is perfectly entitled to exercise power when it is in the perceived interests of the citizenry.

To be clear, this differs from the mild dispute I tracked earlier. This controversy is calculated and pursued with vigour, on both sides.

Other than the Prime Minister, Michael Gove is the UK Cabinet member tasked with strengthening the Union. He believes that the days when Westminster and Whitehall could “devolve and forget” must be over.

He wants the UK Government to act in Scottish domestic matters, beyond the reserved issues of defence and foreign affairs and the partially reserved issues of the economy and social security.

More, he wants that action to be evident, to be palpable. He wants it to be badged, learning ironically from the EU who previously attached their 12 star emblem to every project supported in Scotland.

The latest prospect is that the A75 road in south-west Scotland might be upgraded, in line with a report on Union Connectivity from Sir Peter Hendy.

But think. Is that Hendy suggestion simply about a Scottish trunk road and therefore purely a matter for devolved Scottish governance?

Or is it a UK matter? Is it about a trade link which could speed goods from Northern Ireland to the M6 in England and thence to the European continent? (That is if, unaccountably, the Prime Minister’s visionary dream of a bridge or tunnel fails to materialise.)

Expect more in a similar vein. Visiting Scotland this week, the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said UK Ministers were “upping” their presence in engaging with the Scottish economy.

In response, expect Scottish Ministers to warn of a Westminster power grab and to suggest that Scotland’s interests will not be well served by a UK Government which is ultimately seeking to bolster support in England.

A cross-border conflict, in short. Let us hope they agree the rules of engagement in advance.

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