BORIS Johnson has always been much more of a hindrance than a help to the campaign to maintain the Union in Scotland because of the sheer scale of his unpopularity here.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon should not count on this being the golden key that unlocks the door to Scottish independence.

This week as partygate rumbled on, a poll of 1,000 Scots showed 54% of respondents believed the psychodrama had damaged the Union. Given the scale of the scandal in Downing St, the surprise was the figure was not higher.

However, in any vote people tend not to look at just one issue but, rather, make a considered judgement covering a range of them.

While many Conservative colleagues in England regard the Prime Minister’s tub-thumping approach to campaigning an electoral asset, the same cannot be said of his Scottish colleagues, who believe him to be an electoral liability north of the border.

This is perhaps why during the two-year run-in to the 2014 independence campaign, the blonde Beatle, unlike many of his Tory colleagues, did not once cross the border to campaign to save his “precious Union”.

Rumours at the time suggested David Cameron had made it clear in no uncertain terms to his Old Etonian Woosterish chum that he should stay put in London. Boris was mayor at the time.

Nor did Johnson’s bold assertion last year, that “wild horses” would not keep him away from his love of the stump in the run-up to the May 2021 Holyrood poll, turn into reality. Tory candidates believed he was a vote loser in Scotland and, privately, urged him to stay away. He reluctantly complied.

Last year in an interview with The Herald, Douglas Ross, when asked directly if Boris was regarded as an asset or a liability to the Scottish Conservative cause, replied tellingly: “The PM is the Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom but I am the leader here in Scotland…” He added Boris fully understood the Scottish Tories were a “separate party here”. The hands-off message was clear.

As far as Downing St is concerned a dark shadow has blanketed Ross ever since he, alone, resigned his ministerial position because Dominic Cummings had acted “outwith” the Covid guidance during the first lockdown in May 2020 following the then PM chief aide’s notorious visit to Barnard Castle - to test his eyesight.

Six months later, Ross had good reason to kick the wall again when Johnson told the Tory backbenchers of the 1922 Committee that devolution had been a “disaster” and was Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake”. While the PM later clarified the first statement - the Nationalists had used devolution to promote independence - interestingly, he didn’t do the same for the second one.

Then last August, at the end of a two-day trip to Scotland, Boris couldn’t help himself and quipped how Margaret Thatcher had given “a big early start” to green energy by - closing the coalmines. Another political cudgel had been placed in Sturgeon’s hand as Ross again kicked another hole in the wall.

And so, as perhaps it was always going to be, the rift between Ross and Johnson was completed when the Scottish leader told the UK leader to resign over partygate and was supported by most of his Scottish Conservative colleagues.

The bold move led to Jacob Rees-Mogg, another idiosyncratic character who could have been lifted from the pages of P G Wodehouse, to label Ross a “lightweight”. When pressed during PMQs on whether he agreed with his Old Etonian chum, Boris conspicuously failed to answer, saying only that those lovely Scottish Conservatives were doing an absolutely first rate job.

Yesterday, to no one’s great surprise the ermine-clad Ruth Davidson popped up to claim partygate showed Boris was “unfit for office”.

Now it’s suggested the Scottish Conservatives won’t be inviting the PM to their spring conference in March. Some might believe that Ross and his colleagues distancing themselves from Boris can, in the circumstances, only help their electoral fortunes.

There is even renewed talk of the Scottish Tories breaking away completely from their English counterparts but for many this would run against the grain of Unionism and simply feed into the idea of Scotland’s separateness from the rest of the UK.

Politically speaking, of course, part of Sturgeon, as with Keir Starmer, would like to see the Number 10 “trolley” stay at the head of the UK Government for as long as possible, swinging from one political disaster to another in the hope she and her independence cause can benefit greatly from the PM’s dysfunctionality.

The latest chapter in partygate has this week focused on the Tory whips’ dark arts of persuasion with claims red-wall MPs who want to see the back of Boris have suffered intimidation. Surely not.

However, the public mood has changed. Bullying shouldn’t be tolerated in any modern-day workplace even within the rarefied Gothic palace by the Thames.

The fact that Scotland Yard is now going to have a chat with a Conservative MP next week about the whips’ gentle means of persuasion should send a shiver down the spines of ministers, most notably the PM.

Operation Save Big Dog has clicked into gear with a dedicated team of loyal ministers tasked to saving Boris’s premiership. Bribery ie dangling the prospect of a government job rather than bullying might be more profitable. Telephone lines have been hot for a second weekend running.

Johnson, holed up in Chequers, has been on the blower himself, trying to schmooze those rebellious pork pie plotters. The last thing he wants is PC Plod involved. Where would that lead?

While some may think Boris is the biggest threat to the Union, he appears more of a threat to the Conservative cause in Scotland.

As Westminster and much of the country await the Sue Gray report on partygate, Ross and most of his Scottish colleagues will be holding hands and praying quietly that it will spell the end of Johnson’s premiership; sooner rather than later.