THOSE who fought with such passion to secure a Leave victory in the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union were quite clear: theirs was a righteous campaign to preserve the sovereignty of parliament and to take back control of our laws from “unelected” bureaucrats.
The suggestion that the Eurosceptic movement, in fact, represented a backward-looking, insular ideology was furiously dismissed by politicians and their campaign-funders as a smear, an attack on decent people who simply wished to protect our democracy.
The Scotsman is bound to say that those arguments now lie in tatters.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday that he intends to suspend parliament in advance of a new Queen’s Speech, scheduled for October 14, is - without question - an attempt to scupper the plans of Members of Parliament who have committed themselves to trying to prevent a No Deal Brexit.
Supporters may try to spin this otherwise, they may try to say that a Queen’s Speech is overdue and that Mr Johnson is merely exercising his right to set out the agenda of his government, but it is abundantly clear that, having committed himself to delivering Brexit on October 31, he is willing to play dirty in order to keep his promise.
His actions have, of course, generated considerable outrage among those who believe - as The Scotsman does - that Brexit is a mistake and that the No Deal variety merely compounds that. There is talk now of whether Mr Johnson might be brought down, about whether parliament - or a version of it - could sit, elsewhere, during the proposed period of prorogation.
But, regardless of whether pro-Remain MPs are able to formulate a workable plan or not, yesterday’s announcement has implications that rage far beyond the matter of Brexit.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday accused Mr Johnson of “acting like some kind of tin pot dictator”. The First Minister may have employed some typical political hyperbole in that assessment but she got to a truth at the heart of our national debate. That truth is that convention can be damned.
Without a written constitution, the way in which our politics is run has been decided over centuries of statute and consensus. We can now safely assume that the rules of engagement that have sustained our politics for so long no longer apply.
Rather than treating the House of Commons as sovereign, the Prime Minister now seems to regard it as nothing more than an inconvenience. For all of his talk of democracy, he now treats with contempt the right of MPs to represent their constituents.
When Mr Johnson decided, more than three years ago, to throw in his lot with the Leave campaign, he did so not because of a great passion for Brexit but because he judged that such a course would be most likely to enhance his career prospects. His motivation was neither sovereignty nor “taking back control” but the advancement of Boris Johnson.
If nothing else, the fact that he is now Prime Minister proves that Mr Johnson’s decision was the right one for Mr Johnson.
But is this really the premiership of which he dreamed? For a man who fancies himself something of a modern day Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister is behaving in the most unstatesmanlike manner in order to save his own skin. With Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage cranking up the No Deal rhetoric, Mr Johnson has set our country on course for a painful break with the EU which will, we fear, leave the UK - should it survive in its current form - hopelessly divided for many years to come.
The fingerprints of all of those who campaigned for Brexit in 2016 cover every inch of this crisis. They may have won the referendum but, in their recklessness, they have helped undermine our democracy, perhaps fatally.