Pandemic was, for once, not top of Boris Johnson’s agenda on his flying visit to Orkney last week. To mark an eventful first year in power, the prime minister dashed north of the border to grapple with the prized local crabs and help produce the Scottish islands’ protected cheddar cheese.

Trailed from photo op to photo op by a smattering of pro-independence protesters donned in masks, Johnson was already eyeing the next major battle of his premiership.

The Covid-19 crisis had demonstrated the “sheer might” of the union, Johnson claimed in one of the few parts of Scotland not controlled by the SNPs. The nationalists said the visit smelled of panic and recent polling suggests why nerves in Westminster are beginning to fray.

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