So what are we to make of John Major suddenly crawling out of the woodwork to have a good old rant about these ghastly, uppity Jocks who dare to presume that their votes in May should have some kind of impact on how their country is run? The first thing to say is that I'm genuinely stunned to learn that he apparently doesn't spend each and every day thanking his lucky stars that Scotland is a nation of almost saintly patience and restraint.
As prime minister in 1992, he fought a general election north of the border on a platform of maintaining direct rule from London – and not only was he defeated, he was utterly humiliated. By voting overwhelmingly for parties that either supported full independence or had signed the Claim of Right for Scotland, the country unambiguously withdrew its consent for the Tory government of the day to take any further decisions on domestic Scottish matters. And yet Major's reaction to that result showed a disdain for democracy that would have made Vladimir Putin blush.
Honest despots simply set aside the verdict of the electorate, but that wasn't enough for Major, who brazenly pretended to have won. Quality of votes matter more than quantity if you're a Tory leader fighting elections in Scotland – or at least we must assume that's the case, because it's very hard to see any other way in which victory for the party's preferred constitutional model could have been claimed on the basis of securing just 26% of the vote, and 11 out of 72 parliamentary seats.
Essentially, the country took a deep breath, counted very slowly to 10, and decided to give Westminster one more chance to do the right thing. Yet another chance.
Having trampled all over a nation's democratic rights, Major had every reason to anticipate a painful and prolonged payback from the Scottish people as he struggled to maintain his illegitimate administration over the interminable five years that followed. It had been amply demonstrated that Scotland was utterly powerless to achieve modest constitutional reform by means of the ballot box, so there were two obvious potential next steps – a massive campaign of civil disobedience, or a wholesale switch of support from devolution to independence. And yet neither really materialised. The SNP did enjoy a brief surge of support in 1994, but as the 1997 election approached people largely reverted to their familiar voting patterns. Essentially, the country took a deep breath, counted very slowly to 10, and decided to give Westminster one more chance to do the right thing. Yet another chance. How many other nations of the world would have turned the other cheek in that way?
At the very least, you'd think Major would be privately grateful for having benefitted from that unexpected and richly undeserved indulgence. Instead, the Scottish electorate's reward is to see the former prime minister's contempt for them mutate into outright hate. That, I think, is not too strong a characterisation of the ugly sentiments contained in his recent Telegraph piece. In particular, the baseless depiction of Scots as an unfairly advantaged, money-grubbing people perpetually seeking to hold the rest of the UK to ransom is disturbingly reminiscent of the paranoid anti-Semitic narratives of a bygone age.
Bizarrely, he launches into the most offensive part of the article with a claim to hold "admiration and respect for Scotland". This seems an impossible contradiction to resolve, until you recall the old quantity vs quality issue. The only Scots he despises are the ones who might consider voting SNP, and although there may be a heck of a lot of them, that doesn't matter because they're not real Scots. The authentic Scotland he admires so much is the tiny percentage of the country that saw things his way all along. Admittedly, he half-heartedly nods to a more conventional concept of democratic legitimacy by noting that the SNP speak for less than half of the people of Scotland – which is a line that would work a lot better if the SNP government hadn't been elected on a larger percentage share of the vote than Major's own government managed in 1992. In any case, it would be a brave person who claims to know for a fact that the SNP don't currently speak for most Scots, given that Ipsos-Mori polls since the independence referendum have pointed to Nicola Sturgeon's party gaining an absolute majority of votes, let alone seats.
Major's basic demand is that all London parties must collude to ensure that unworthy Scots, those of quantity but not of quality, are denied influence if they vote the "wrong" way. In doing so, he's effectively proposing a form of "civic death" for the residents of one of the four constituent nations of the UK.
Major despises any sign of weakness in the people he wants to see dominated.
Just what can Scotland have done so wrong to deserve such a punishment? I suspect that, like many instinctive imperialists, Major despises any sign of weakness in the people he wants to see dominated. When Scotland was bullied last year over the currency issue, and told that it was too useless to manage its own natural resources, it could have shown self-respect by walking away. Instead, just as in the 1990s, it pulled back. It listened to the honeyed words and promises that cascaded from the direction of London in the days prior to the referendum, and placed the UK government on a final warning by narrowly voting No.
The leading pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell once suggested that The Proclaimers' Should Have Been Loved would make a fitting anthem for the Yes movement. It contains the lyric "anything you tried to do got you treated like a jumper in a queue".
That pretty much sums up John Major's irrational reaction to Scotland's lingering and slightly naïve desire to simply believe in Westminster's good intentions, even as late as last September. But a final warning means exactly what it says on the tin. If the former Tory PM has the remotest interest in truly understanding why the SNP seem set to hold the balance of power at Westminster, he should forget his dehumanising stereotypes about the residents of Scotland, and simply gaze into the mirror for an hour or two.