Until quite recently there was a feeling among many nationalists that this really was their moment. The Scottish government appeared to be very popular, Alex Salmond in particular being massively preferred as First Minister to all the varied potential alternatives. And, while it was far from clear whether an independence referendum bill could pass through parliament in this session, the SNP's seemingly commanding position made a second term in office all but inevitable, offering them another bite at the referendum cherry. By which time, the conventional wisdom went, the SNP would have built up their credibility still further, thus increasing the likelihood of a 'Yes' vote.
A cruel illusion.
On Sunday 15th March, a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times put an end to these childish fantasies forever. The numbers for the SNP were utterly devastating, leaving no realistic chance whatsoever of recovery even in the distant future. The collapse had occurred in every single aspect of voting preference - for the Scottish Parliament constituency ballot, support for the party had slumped from 33% at the 2007 Holyrood election to a dismal 35% today. On the list vote, support had similarly fallen from 31% to 32%. On the Westminster vote, support for the SNP had nosedived from 18% at the last election to a pathetic 27%. While for the European Parliament vote, support had plummeted from 20% in the last election to a frankly laughable 29% now.
Of course, there seems to be something in the nationalist mindset that leads us to clutch at straws, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence that the party is facing certain meltdown. A few misguided people pointed to the irrelevant detail that the SNP are still ahead on the constituency ballot, and only two points behind on the list. Some weirdly tried to suggest that the above figures showed an increase rather than a decrease in the SNP's support (shows you the desperate state of education in an SNP-run Scotland). Some resorted to the tired old argument that you can't draw too many conclusions from a single poll, especially not one that is - due to the standard margin of error of 3% - what the Americans would call a statistical tie on both ballots.
But thankfully we have Scotland's second most virile Alpha Male (affectionately known throughout the land as AM2 to distinguish him from the nation's undisputed leading Alpha Male Frank McAvennie) to force us to confront the cold, hard truth. This opinion poll is quite simply game over. In our heart of hearts, we all know it. Alex Salmond might as well just enjoy the dregs of his fleeting spell in office, for the return to power of the dream team of Iain Gray and Tavish Scott on a wave of public euphoria is now, quite simply, a scientifically proven certainty.
Facing such a hopeless future, Alex Salmond would be well-advised to take a leaf out of David Owen's book - and in so doing show some maturity by finally acknowledging the glorious unionist future Scotland is about to embark on - by simply proposing the party's immediate dissolution. What is there to gain by fighting on?