A fortnight ago, figures from across the political right gathered in London for the UK’s first National Conservatism conference.

Organised by the US-based Edmund Burke Foundation, the conference boasted multiple senior Conservative Party figures as speakers. Two Secretaries of State, Suella Braverman and Michael Gove, alongside former Secretary of State Jacob Rees-Mogg, gave keynote speeches. The Conservative Party Deputy Chair, Lee Anderson MP, and Tory peer Lord David Frost were both featured speakers.

This is a serious political-ideological project that seeks to place “faith, family, and flag” at the heart of British politics, with serious champions in the ruling Conservative Party. It is also a project that would have serious consequences for Scotland.

Their Statement of Principles calls for the central state to “intervene energetically” in “subdivisions” of the state “in which law and justice have been manifestly corrupted, or in which lawlessness, immorality, and dissolution reign”.

I do not doubt that this is precisely how National Conservatives see the Scottish Government. Not least because they believe Scotland’s SNP governments have “abused” devolution to pursue independence.

Indeed, on multiple occasions, Lord Frost has used his Telegraph column to call for the re-centralisation of power from Holyrood to Westminster, referring to Scotland as the SNP’s “rotten burgh”. His public calls to put devolution “into reverse” perfectly reflect the National Conservatives’ ideological commitments relating to devolution.

It would be easy for us to dismiss National Conservatism and its threat to devolution as crackpottery. If its politics sound like they would sit more comfortably in Orbán’s Hungary or Trump’s Republican Party, that’s because these are the political ecosystems in which these ideas have percolated for several years now.

But if history is anything to go by, as Professor Andrew Gamble noted in his assessment of National Conservatism for The New Statesman, a new Tory opposition is highly likely to lurch to the right and pick a National Conservative like Suella Braverman to succeed Rishi Sunak. And whether or not there is sufficient political space in the UK for National Conservatism to succeed at the ballot box remains an open question.

Could a first-term Starmer Government be defeated by a National Conservative opposition, particularly if that first term goes poorly? It’s a distinct possibility. At which point, Scotland would face a government ideologically committed to rolling back devolution.

Re-centralisation, of course, is not the preserve of National Conservatives. While the ideological framework for rolling back devolution is being laid in the writings and speeches of Britain’s National Conservatives, the political precedents are being established by the current Scotland Secretary.

The decision to block the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme, unless it aligns with the UK Government’s version of the scheme, provides a case in point.

As constitutional law expert Professor Aileen McHarg wrote about the decision, “If ever you needed proof that the UK Internal Market Act amounted to a vehicle for the re-centralisation of power, here it is”.

Some disagree. But as far as I can see, they have failed to make any coherent argument that Professor McHarg is wrong that this decision, and the UK Internal Market Act overall, amount to re-centralisation.

Whether it’s a National Conservative-style “energetic intervention” to roll back devolution or limiting the exercise of devolved power in a “specific and limited way”, both reclaim decision- and policy-making power from Holyrood for Westminster. Both are re-centralisation.

Where they differ is in their politics. The UK Government has been careful to intervene only where it senses that the Scottish Government’s policy is unpopular. Its interventions are also over issues low on Scottish voters’ priorities – the Deposit Return Scheme failed to register in Ipsos’ recent Political Monitor’s issue priorities question.

This allows the UK Government to establish and expand precedent for intervening in devolved policy-making without risking a backlash. This is clever politics: according to the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, 52% of Scots think the Scottish Parliament should take all decisions about governing Scotland, and just 21% would prefer an arrangement that would transfer some Holyrood powers back to Westminster.

But the Conservatives’ re-centralisation strategy may soon pivot, with soft re-centralisers like Mr Jack out of power and National Conservative hard re-centralisers in the ideological ascendancy.

Scottish Conservatives generally sense the political danger here, and several publicly decried Lord Frost’s interventions. But they must surely recognise that the ideological centre of their party is shaped at Westminster, not Holyrood, and is shifting.

Determined that not only must powers be returned to Westminster to protect the Union, but to protect Scotland itself from an allegedly incompetent and corrupt governing party, the National Conservatives and their fellow travellers on unionism’s hard edge sense that their time has come. They are wrong to think so.

In The Symbolic State, the University of Edinburgh’s Dr Karlo Basta shows that when concessions to minority nations like Scotland are reversed, they can trigger and intensify secessionist crises, not because of the specifics of what concessions are reversed, but the symbolism of such a move.

By shifting from seemingly minor interventions on low-salience issues, to returning powers wholesale from Holyrood to Westminster, the UK Government would be riding roughshod over an institution most Scots greatly value. At a time when Scottish secessionism appears to be in retreat, this would be a strategic blunder.

And while the SNP have handed their opponents a gift in the form of their recent woes, hard re-centralisers are wrong to think this creates a favourable environment for their project.

Research on re-centralisation by Professors Theresa Kuhn and Sergi Pardos-Prado finds that perceptions of corrupt devolved governments can lead to public support for re-centralisation. But not if there is also perceived corruption at the national level of government and little perceived difference in performance between governments.

While hard re-centralisers may have identified new lines of argument – that re-centralising power takes it out of the hands of a perceived corrupt and incompetent SNP – their ability to take advantage is severely blunted by the fact that Scots see the UK Government as just as corrupt and even less competent.

A National Conservative turn in British politics would be disastrous for devolution. It lays the ideological groundwork to send the recent trend towards re-centralisation into overdrive, reversing decades of decentralisation of power that brought decision-making closer to the Scottish people.

But it could also prove disastrous for unionism and the British state. Imposed without a popular mandate north of the border by a profoundly unpopular set of Westminster institutions, the risk of backlash would be significant. The re-centralisers should tread carefully, lest they reinvigorate the very movement they seek to defeat.