As a child I remember the muffled voices of my soon-to-be-separated parents rowing noisily as I lay upstairs in bed, frightened and bewildered.

I recognised most of the words they shouted at each other, but when combined to form sentences, they lost all sense and meaning. Though my young brain had no understanding of the arguments and recriminations being picked over, I sensed that, sooner or later, they would impact on me and my life.

Observing what passes for politics in London over the past week, brought back those same feelings of detached helplessness.

Though clearly, I can’t speak for everyone, I imagine that, like me, many Scots of every persuasion – including Conservatives – will have felt like disinterested bystanders.

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I imagine too that for a growing number of people here, the four most frightening words in the English language have suddenly become ‘Prime Minister Suella Braverman’.

While that, for now, may seem like a distant prospect, it is clearly the long-term ambition of the former Home Secretary, irrespective of how crushingly ill-suited to the role she may appear to many of us north – or, for that matter, south – of the border.

And what we have learned to our cost is that, if a comparatively small proportion of the electorate in England – or a majority of Conservative party members there – decide that they want to install an inflatable gimp with a Max Wall wig in Downing Street, they have the power to do so.

Articulating the values of a nation is a complex and contentious exercise, as the 2014 independence referendum campaign demonstrated.

While we may have difficulty pinpointing exactly what it is that makes us Scottish, there are some universal beliefs that we share, in common with people from other liberal democracies.

We support the police in enforcing the rule of law, believing they should do so without fear or favour.

The Herald: Pro-independence marchers in GlasgowPro-independence marchers in Glasgow (Image: free)

We believe that we should have an effective, strictly controlled immigration system, that balances the needs of our economy with the ability of our public services and institutions to cope.

As a free and fair-minded society we believe we should shoulder responsibility for accepting a fair – or even generous – proportion of refugees and asylum seekers, who face persecution or death in their own countries.

We also believe that our generosity should not be exploited, or undermined, by those who arrive on our shores without a legal right to be here, but that we should have a humane method of identifying them and returning them to where they came from.

There are also some values that we decidedly reject. Few of us, I’d guess, would describe being homeless as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some people. Most, I presume, would uphold the right of people to demonstrate against bloodshed in Gaza – and the appalling butchery of Hamas on October 7 for that matter – and we would want to see some pretty compelling evidence to deny them that right.

Few of us would refer to migrants crossing the English Channel on small boats as a ‘swarm’ or an ‘invasion’, or describe it as a ‘dream’ to see a front-page headline in the Daily Telegraph, reporting on the first flight of asylum seekers taking off from a UK airport, bound for Rwanda, as Ms Braverman has done.

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She told a fringe meeting of the Conservative party conference last month that there are 100 million people from around the world who qualify for protection under UK law and that flights to Rwanda had become an ‘obsession’ for her.

Today, the supreme court ruled her plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. Defeat risks significantly emboldening Ms Braverman and her supporters on the Conservative right and their actions could have a significant effect on the future direction of the Sunak government.

Ms Braverman is a wily politician and her incendiary column in The Times last week – in which she likened demonstrators to paramilitary-linked groups in Northern Ireland and suggested that police ‘play favourites’ with those and Black Lives Matter protestors – was clearly part of a wider calculation.

It surely cannot have surprised her that, following her intervention, thugs from the racist English Defence League took to the streets of London to perpetrate violence.

The Herald: Tommy Robinson speaks to police officers as he arrives at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London, ahead of a pro-Palestinian protest march which is taking place from Hyde Park to the US embassy in VauxhallTommy Robinson speaks to police officers as he arrives at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London, ahead of a pro-Palestinian protest march which is taking place from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall (Image: free)

Comments frequently made by politicians like Braverman act as a dog whistle to far right elements in a way that seems hard to fathom north of the border.

When Scots politicians raise the issue of independence, they are accused by their English counterparts at Westminster of ‘sowing division’, but it’s playground stuff compared with what we have seen in the past week in London.

It’s not that we don’t have extremists, cranks, and supporters of fringe positions on the right and the left in Scotland, but they tend to find expression away from politics, among football crowds and on sectarian demonstrations.

The last time the Scottish Defence League (SDL) – an offshoot of its English counterpart – organised a protest, in Glasgow in 2018, we were promised a ‘mass rally’. What we got was a gaggle of 50 ‘white supremacists’ who were easily outnumbered by police, anti-fascist demonstrators, a man and his dog.

Later an SDL spokesman claimed their numbers were small because supporters lacked the confidence to take part in public events, fearing they fear they would be beaten up by ‘left-wing extremists’.

You know you’re in trouble when you have to tell your skinhead stormtroopers to pull themselves together and show some backbone.

It’s unlikely Scotland would elect BNP members to local authorities or to the European Parliament, as they have done south of the border.

Our brief experiment with radical politics extended to electing six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs in 2003 on a manifesto that included taxing people earning more than £50,000 at close to 60%. But the flirtation lasted for only a single term.

Even electing a mainstream party leader as socially extreme as Braverman or as economically out there as Liz Truss would seem to be a step too far. Labour’s period of psychosis under Jeremy Corbyn seemed to pass us by.

Despite its current setbacks, we have the SNP to thank for representing a civic form of nationalism that gives voters a moderate alternative to mainstream UK parties.

We also have a progressive electoral system to the Scottish Parliament that prevents a small number of voters in a particular social class or geographical area being able to decide elections.

The same cannot be said for the first-past-the-post system in place at Westminster, which has ensured that in only seven of 21 UK general elections since 1945 has the popular vote in Scotland been for the party that went on to form a government – a strike rate of just one in three.

If voters in a comparatively small number of constituencies in England – or in certain circumstances, Conservative party members – decide that Ms Braverman is their woman, we will have little choice but to take to our beds and worry about our future.

Carlos Alba ran the media campaign for Ken MacIntosh’s bid to become Scottish Labour leader against Kezia Dugdale