Sunday, July 21, 2024

Former independence supporter Stuart Campbell effectively admits trying to "kill" indy at the general election - and he wrongly thinks he's succeeded

I just want to make one simple point.  Although it's an important point, there's nothing complicated about it and it can be explained very briefly.  On polling day, Stuart Campbell broke his word to his readers.  He had previously assured them he would never tell them how to vote, but instead he ended up instructing them to vote Labour: "there’s a job that needs doing...grit your teeth and gird your loins and get it done".  Although this would mean they'd be voting for an avowedly anti-independence party, Campbell tried to make out that they'd somehow be playing a game of five-dimensional chess and bringing independence closer.

So having got the election outcome he wanted (I doubt if many people were stupid enough to follow his advice, but he got the outcome anyway), you might have been forgiven for expecting some kind of guidance from him about where the cunning masterplan goes from here and how precisely independence has been brought closer.  But nope.  Instead, he brazenly asked his readers for suggestions about how he should spend the next two years, because he couldn't see any way forward.  And then on Thursday, he announced that: "Independence is dead as a political issue in Scotland for the next few years. This much should not be in any dispute."

And why is independence dead in his view?  Oh, he is in no doubt whatever about the reason: "A Labour government with a crushing majority sits firmly in Westminster with absolutely no intentions of granting a second referendum". That'll be the Labour government he instructed his readers to elect with as crushing a majority as possible.  In other words, he knowingly gave his readers advice intended to "kill" independence - exactly as I and others pointed out he was doing at the time.  Those who said we were wrong owe us an apology.

Independence is of course not dead, whatever the fantasies of the Brit Nat commetariat and Stuart Campbell (essentially one and the same thing).  The era of "muscular unionism" and "now is not the time" under Theresa May started, seemingly, at a moment of maximum weakness for the Brit Nat side - the SNP had 54 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, and were dominant at Holyrood.  It's therefore not at all hard to imagine the pro-indy movement starting a fightback in the current circumstances which are far less unfavourable than anything the Scottish Tories faced in 2016-17.  But it does actually require someone to go out there and make the political weather, rather than just passively accepting the fatalistic nonsense being put about by the likes of Campbell.

I won't give Campbell any advice about how he should spend the next two years, but I'll make a prediction about how he will spend them - he'll campaign for a Labour-led Scottish government under Anas Sarwar, because he thinks independence hasn't been killed quite enough yet.  It would be grand if we could stop pretending this guy is anything other than an anti-independence campaigner at this stage.  If that's what his dwindling band of die-hard fans actually believe in, fine, but if not, they've been brainwashed by a bog-standard cult leader.

Saturday, July 20, 2024

BREAKING: Alba remains a "member-led" party

Scot Goes Pop readers who are members of the Alba Party will have received the weekly party email yesterday, which this time was written by the General Secretary, Chris McEleny. It urges members to attend a meeting on Holyrood election strategy tomorrow, and encouragingly it specifically states that Alba is a "member-led party".  That was a phrase that was used a great deal at the time of the party's founding, and it's fantastic to hear it reiterated now, because I know there had been an alternative view gaining traction that the members should be treated with suspicion and that as much information as possible should be withheld from them because they might be infiltrators.  It obviously isn't feasible for members to lead a party that regards them as suspects, so it's tremendously reassuring that Alba won't be going down that road.

There's also been an alternative view that members shouldn't want or need to lead the party or have any democratic control over it, because they've elected a leader and should just sit back and passively trust that person to make the right decisions on their behalf.  It sounds like that won't be the path Alba goes down either, and I think that's the right call.  If Alba is going to have enough members to survive and thrive, it needs to be able to offer both new recruits and existing members a meaningful say over both policy and direction.  Hopefully now we can move forward, at a minimum, to a National Executive Committee that is elected on a one member, one vote basis, rather than the current system of restricting the franchise to a small subset of members on a sort of "pay-per-vote" basis.  Clearly a party will only be truly member-led once the members are allowed to choose who sits on its governing body.

In the meantime, though, do go along to Perth tomorrow if you're free and express your views on strategy for 2026.

Friday, July 19, 2024

The blackout on reporting of David Davis' revelation tells us a lot about how media bias works in the UK - but we still need to start separating out the Sturgeon v Salmond battles from the internal politics of the independence movement

I note that David Davis has used parliamentary privilege to allege that Liz Lloyd, the former Chief of Staff for Nicola Sturgeon, was the person who unlawfully leaked details of allegations against Alex Salmond to the repugnant Daily Record and its political editor David Clegg.  I also note the weird media blackout on reporting of Davis' allegation - a Google search only turns up a solitary article in The Times, which would suggest the Scottish media is ignoring it completely.  This illustrates again how media bias works - it's often not how they report on things but whether they choose to report them in the first place.  Deciding what members of the public should know and what they should remain in ignorance of is a tremendous power, and it's one that is routinely and cynically abused by the mainstream media.  Because this is a rare example of non-reporting that potentially benefits the independence movement, it's a particularly useful illustration of the process.

Like most people who have looked at the facts as objectively as possible, I was forced to conclude that a small group of people close to Nicola Sturgeon decided for petty-minded factional reasons that Alex Salmond should never be able to return to front-line politics, and to prevent that happening they deliberately set in train a process that they knew might result in him going to jail for crimes he did not commit.  That is a disgraceful state of affairs, and I can only wish Mr Salmond the very best as he seeks long-overdue redress. But that is ultimately a personal matter (or it is now that Mr Salmond or Ms Sturgeon are no longer ministers) and we have got to start separating it out from the politics of the independence movement before it does any more damage.

That is one reason why it is to be greatly regretted that Kate Forbes was not elected SNP leader either last year or this year. Instead we still have a First Minister who was closely associated with the Sturgeon faction, which is making it harder for the warriors of the Salmond v Sturgeon cold war to move on.  And on the Alba side, I can remember saying three years ago that Alex Salmond was far too sensible to allow any antipathy towards Nicola Sturgeon to seep into Alba's campaigning and that instead the party would be making a relentlessly positive case.  I would have to say my confidence on that front was partly misplaced - not during the Holyrood campaign of 2021, but later on, and most especially during the last three months of 2022 and the early part of 2023.  Over that period, not only were senior Alba people sometimes painting the SNP as a party of perverts, they were also demonising Nicola Sturgeon on a personal level, seemingly in an all-out effort to bring her down as First Minister.  That was an entirely counter-productive objective because Sturgeon had intended to fight the general election as a de facto independence referendum, while anyone likely to replace her was going to ditch that strategy.  (And no, I'm not impressed by the argument that the general election outcome shows that the Sturgeon strategy was wrong - the whole campaign would have been different if the SNP had been fighting it as a de facto under Sturgeon's leadership, and no-one can say what the result would have been.)

After 4th July, we do not have the luxury of being able to permit ourselves distractions.  We need a totally committed push over the next two years to save the pro-independence majority at Holyrood and at the very least to ensure that a pro-independence government remains in power. The posture of an individual's legal team should not form part of the ideology of any political party - and I'm not just talking about Alba when I say that.  It was, after all, the SNP that sent Nicola Sturgeon flowers after she faced a round of tough questioning.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Scottish Government should boycott any "Council of the Nations and Regions"

The Nation.Cymru news website has been making the news recently rather than just reporting on it.  It played a key role in the downfall of the Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething, a man so arrogant and entitled that a sitcom could be written about him.  (Having been dragged kicking and screaming from office, his first reaction was - with no apparent sense of irony - to sympathise with the people who would be devastated by his departure!)

Yesterday, Nation.Cymru was fast out of the blocks with an opinion piece blasting Labour's proposed "Council of the Nations and Regions" as an insult to Wales.  It points out that the plan would put the country of Wales on a par with non-national English regions and would drown out the voice of Wales in a body where it would be lost among a sea of English mayors.  Alex Salmond has today made a similar point about how the Scottish Government shouldn't accept being given the same status as devolved English regions.

I personally wouldn't be that bothered about Scotland being treated in the same way as an English region as long as devolution in England was meaningful.  Yorkshire has a similar population to Scotland, and if there was a Yorkshire parliament with similar powers to Holyrood, it would obviously make sense to regard them as having equivalent status.  But that's not the position.  The English metro-mayors are essentially local government figures. They've had very limited powers devolved to them from central government, but those are powers that in any sensible country would have been in the hands of local government long before now.  What the Scottish Government mustn't accept is being treated as a glorified local authority.

But that seems to be London Labour's plan.  The language from the King's Speech pointed to a deliberate levelling up/levelling down approach - devolution to English mayors is to be strengthened, but all that will be strengthened in Scotland and Wales is the UK Government's relationship with the devolved administrations, which in plain language means that London will be sticking its oar into matters that have been devolved for decades, re-establishing the sort of dependent relationship that exists between the UK Government and English local authorities.  John Swinney shouldn't play along with that.  He should say he wants good relations with the Starmer administration, but that they should be conducted bilaterally, or via the Joint Ministerial Committee, or via the British-Irish Council.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

First post-election poll suggests the Labour honeymoon may be limited in scale

The first GB-wide poll since the general election is out, but it's quite hard to interpret.  There's no sign of the data tables (if anyone finds them, let me know), and I can't see any methodological note confirming that past vote weighting from the election has been introduced.  If by any chance that hasn't happened, the results would be really poor for Labour because they show a decline in support from the last pre-election poll from the same firm.

GB-wide voting intentions for the next general election (WeThink, 11th-12th July 2024):

Labour 39% (-2)
Conservatives 20% (-3)
Reform UK 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 11% (-)
Greens 9% (+2)
SNP 2% (-)

More likely, I'd have thought, is that the new weighting has indeed been brought in and has corrected for a massive overstatement of Labour in the pre-election polls.  That would mean Labour's support has actually increased by four points in this poll (not by five because this is a GB rather than UK-wide poll) which would suggest that Starmer is enjoying some sort of honeymoon - and that's entirely to be expected given the fawning media coverage he's been given during his first 10 days in power.  However, bearing in mind that the SNP are ultimately going to need the Labour government to become unpopular before 2026, it's reassuring that this appears to be a pretty limited honeymoon.  In similar situations in the past it wouldn't have been unexpected to see a Labour vote share of 45% or 50% or even higher - albeit only temporarily.

By far the worst take I've seen on this poll is the suggestion that it shows there was a temporary dip in Labour support on election day due to tactical voting and that it's bounced back now.  I mean, I know Starmerites are in shock that they took a smaller popular vote than Jeremy Corbyn did in 2019 (let alone than Corbyn did in 2017), but that's truly desperate.  You can just imagine them in the run-up to polling day in 2028 or 2029: "now, remember, we'll probably have our customary election day dip, but don't worry, we'll be right back in business after the election is over!"

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Monday, July 15, 2024

After a third consecutive election failure, where now for the Alba Party?

It's worth reiterating that Alba did not directly cost the SNP any seats at all at the general election.  There was a huge element of luck in that, because Labour came close to winning both Dundee Central and Aberdeen North, and any very narrow SNP losses in those seats would have been blamed on Alba's intervention.  But it didn't happen and ultimately that's what counts.  I know some people have tried to lump the Alba and Green interventions together and look at the combined effect, but that's stretching it a bit - Alba and the Greens were pretty obviously not acting in concert, and if Alba hadn't stood there would still have been Green candidates.  Moreover, the composition of the Green vote is likely to be very different from Alba's, and it's far from clear it would have predominantly gone to the SNP if the Greens hadn't stood. The case for the Greens having cost the SNP a seat is perhaps most plausible in Dumfries and Galloway, because Green voters might have switched to the best anti-Tory option in the absence of a Green, but even there the gap between Tory and SNP was 2.1%, meaning the vast majority of the Greens' 2.7% vote would have had to go to the SNP to swing the balance.  In practice a significant minority would have gone to Labour or other parties.

There's the wider question of whether Alba may have cost the SNP seats indirectly due to depriving the SNP of some of their best and most experienced and committed former activists.  That's harder to pin down, but my guess is that if activists were disillusioned enough with the SNP to defect to Alba, in 80% of cases they would have been disillusioned enough to withdraw their active support for the SNP even in the absence of Alba.  

So Alba can at least move forward without being burdened with much of the blame for the loss of so many pro-independence MPs.  But nevertheless the party still has to grapple with its purpose in life in the wake of a third successive electoral failure.  If some commentators are to believed, it doesn't even have one.  This is what Robin McAlpine has said

"The Alba failure in this election is pretty startling. I think this is personified by the fact that the only politician who has taken a high-profile interest in saving the Grangemouth refinery (Kenny McAskill) got beaten in that seat by Eva Comrie, someone who resigned from Alba and stood as an independent. It is now hard to see Alba having any future. I don’t know what the cause is – the public perception of Alex Salmond, the public perception of the party, the fact that it is now the leading climate change denial party in Scotland – but it doesn’t look to me like the party is dying, it looks to be electorally dead."

That can't be dismissed totally out of hand, because Robin McAlpine is of course the author of the Wee Alba Book.  I'm not sure on what basis he agreed to do that - perhaps he just saw it as a professional commission, but it's unlikely that he would have taken it on unless he had at least partial sympathy with the Alba cause.

First question: does a party have value if it is "electorally dead"?  Probably not.  OK, there's an argument that it could function as a glorified pressure group, one that carries more bite by being able to deprive the SNP of a small number of votes.  But it's unlikely that's going to shift the dial on independence, so mere continued existence isn't going to cut it for Alba.  They would have to actually prove McAlpine and others wrong by winning list seats in 2026.

Second question: can Alba win list seats?  Nobody could honestly say that's impossible, because small parties have won list seats out of nowhere before, sometimes with very low shares of the national vote. However, Alba do not benefit in the way that, for example, the SSP did in 1999 with geographic concentration of their vote. Alba's vote seems to be very evenly and thinly spread, and that could very well mean that they'll need something in the region of 5% or 6% of the national vote to win any seats at all. That looks challenging.  So far, every time Alba have had contact with the electorate, they've tended to come away with 1.5% to 2% of the vote with a reasonable amount of consistency. What is going to change that unless Alba itself changes?

The good news is that Alba can choose to change.  There's no law against it.  But I think it's going to have to happen - continuity won't cut it, as the saying goes, and that's now true for Alba every bit as much as it is for the SNP.  I'm not going to break a taboo by saying there should be a change of leadership, because I genuinely don't know whether that would help or hinder.  Yes, Alex Salmond carries a lot of baggage as far as the public is concerned, but he also gets the party noticed and brings a lot of credibility to the table as a former First Minister. It's possible media coverage of Alba would disappear overnight with a different leader.  If Joanna Cherry came across it might be worth taking the risk, but even though she has much less to lose now, the mood music suggests she will not be coming across.

The gap in the electoral market that Alba is trying to colonise seems to be narrower than it initially banked on, which makes it all the more important that as much as possible of the radical, impatient end of the independence movement is united under the same banner.  Alba has not given the impression of understanding that in recent months, and instead only seems to want a very niche part of the radical end of the movement.  As I've noted a few times, there's been a creeping authoritarianism from the leadership of the "my way or the highway" variety.  The problem with a narrow sect is that however total your control over it is, it's not going to get you elected to public office.

I've made no secret of the fact that I've been dismayed by some of what I've seen on the inside of Alba - at times it's been authoritarian politics and machine politics and clique politics at its very worst.  Now, I'm not naive - although I never held any elected internal position when I was in the SNP, it was an open secret that much the same sort of stuff went on there. But the difference is that in a party of power it might be felt worth tolerating some of the ugliness.  There really is no rationale for tolerating it in a much smaller party without power or without the prospect of power. Alba has to be able to offer an internal culture of democracy and open debate that is clearly superior to the SNP - otherwise, to be blunt, it can't offer anything at all, except to people who just happen to already agree with every word the leadership says.

But even if Alba can improve its culture and become more welcoming, it's probably burnt its bridges with a significant number of people who have already left the party.  That may mean that if the radical end of the movement is going to put up a united front at the Holyrood election, there will have to be a loose, multi-polar electoral alliance of which Alba is only one component part.  That would also address some of the 'brand' issues that Alba suffers from.

I know the leadership probably don't want to hear that, but they really need to start taking the idea seriously, because it's their best shot of becoming MSPs and actually doing something about independence.  Carrying on as before and ending up with 2% of the list vote in 2026 will achieve the square root of nothing.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

If Stewart McDonald thinks people will vote for the SNP if they promise to remove Trident within five or ten years, but not if they promise to remove it within two, he's living on a different planet

The former SNP MP Stewart McDonald reckons his party has a problem with credibility and seriousness, but the 'solutions' he puts forward to this supposed problem are nothing short of batty.  Most weirdly of all, he claims to believe that the SNP's future in government depends on them abandoning their policy of removing Trident from Scotland within two years of independence, which he doesn't think is achievable.

Now, I defy the self-styled 'realists' in the SNP's ranks to think this through logically and come to a different conclusion from the one I have reached.  It may well be that emphasising that an independent Scotland will be a member of NATO is reassuring enough for people concerned about national security that it gets the SNP some extra votes.  It may even be that, hypothetically, ditching the SNP's commitment to nuclear disarmament would win even more votes, because some voters wrongly believe that the theory of nuclear deterrence is a sound one.  But if the SNP are going to remain somewhere in the middle and be pro-NATO but anti-Trident, it stretches credibility somewhat to suggest that voters who are broadly satisfied with that compromise position are going to be put off because the proposal is to remove Trident within two years rather than five or ten. How many voters does anyone think even have a view on what constitutes a realistic timetable for Trident removal, or have enough information before them to reach such a view?

No, I would submit to you that McDonald plainly cannot be motivated by the SNP's electability, but he's pretending that he is in order to serve another agenda - and that can only be his own pro-nuclear agenda.  On some level, I suspect he yearns to put himself forward to the voters as First Minister one day on a promise to build "a strong Scotland within a strong United Kingdom with the nuclear deterrent as the cornerstone of our security", and failing that he just wants to get as close as possible.

If anyone doubts that McDonald would be happy enough if the independence issue just vanished, how else can you explain this from him: "I want to see us grow up, I want to see us get serious. I want to see us have a debate where there are no sacred cows, nothing is off the table."  Now, what could he POSSIBLY HAVE IN MIND THERE, given that the SNP are a pro-independence party and saying that there are no sacred cows at all, and that nothing at all is off the table, can only mean that independence should be treated as an expendable policy like any other?  And if he didn't mean to be taken that way, surely he would have said "there are no sacred cows apart from independence itself, and nothing is off the table apart from our unshakeable commitment to independence"?

Another key part of "growing up" on Planet McDonald apparently involves fretting terribly about unionist voters not regarding a de facto referendum as "legitimate" - which basically amounts to a concern that the minority won't like what the majority have voted for and won't think they should get it.  I mean, so what?  Would it have been grown up for Keir Starmer to stop trying to win a majority of seats because many non-Labour voters refused to regard his win as legitimate without proportional representation?  Maybe it would have been, actually, but that's certainly not the way the centrist power politics that McDonald worships at the altar of has ever worked.

I'll tell you what really isn't grown up, serious or credible politics, and that's taking McDonald's advice by presenting yourselves to the public as a pro-independence party which has no intention of actually trying to deliver independence until such time as the UK government randomly decides to voluntarily allow a vote on it, which they will have no conceivable incentive to ever do.  A voter sophisticated enough to think Trident removal is impossible within two years is certainly going to have no difficulty in seeing straight through McDonald's faux independence prospectus.

Labour's win in Scotland was 'loveless' but it certainly wasn't a 'landslide' - their 5.3% margin of victory over the SNP was the smallest margin for a winning party in Scotland since 1974

I can claim an assist from Jackson Carlaw on this post, because I remember him trying to undermine the SNP's 2017 win by saying their margin of victory was the smallest in Scotland for a long time.  As Labour's margin of victory is even smaller than the SNP's in 2017, it was obviously going to look even less impressive by historical standards.  

To avoid the customary objection from pedants, I'm referring to the pre-1965 Tory party by the official names of "Unionist" and "National Liberal", which were organisationally separate parties but to all and intents and purposes functioned as a single party.  In some ways the relationship was analogous to "Labour/Co-op" in the present day.  Note the anomaly that the Tories won the popular vote in 1959, even though it's generally said they last won in Scotland in 1955 (because that's when they last won a majority of seats).

Results of UK general elections in Scotland since 1945:

1945: Labour won by 6.5% over Unionists & National Liberals
1950: Labour won by 1.4% over Unionists & National Liberals
1951: Unionists & National Liberals won by 0.7% over Labour
1955: Unionists & National Liberals won by 3.4% over Labour
1959: Unionists & National Liberals won by 0.5% over Labour
1964: Labour won by 8.1% over Unionists & National Liberals
1966: Labour won by 12.2% over Conservatives
1970: Labour won by 6.5% over Conservatives
February 1974: Labour won by 3.7% over Conservatives
October 1974: Labour won by 5.9% over SNP
1979: Labour won by 10.1% over Conservatives
1983: Labour won by 6.7% over Conservatives
1987: Labour won by 18.4% over Conservatives
1992: Labour won by 13.3% over Conservatives
1997: Labour won by 23.5% over SNP
2001: Labour won by 23.8% over SNP
2005: Labour won by 16.9% over Liberal Democrats
2010: Labour won by 22.1% over SNP
2015: SNP won by 25.7% over Labour
2017: SNP won by 8.3% over Conservatives
2019: SNP won by 19.9% over Conservatives
2024: Labour won by 5.3% over SNP

So Labour's margin is the smallest since February 1974, with there having been twelve elections in the intervening period.  It's also the sixth smallest since the war, although as you can see most of the previous tight margins are heavily concentrated in the immediate post-war period when Scotland was still highly competitive between Labour and the Tories.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The average support for independence in recent polls is 47.5%

I repeatedly warned that if independence supporters were foolish enough to vote Labour last Thursday (which undoubtedly happened in large numbers, although in the vast majority of cases for "Daily Record" rather than "Stuart Campbell" type reasons), the media and the establishment would leap on the outcome and try to turn it into a generational 1979-style setback that would draw a line under independence for the foreseeable future.  We're seeing those attempts before our eyes right now, for example with Andrew Marr claiming that the 'risk' of the UK breaking up has "vanished" - an objectively ludicrous claim given that Scotland still has a pro-independence government and there is a clear pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.  Nevertheless, independence supporters are only human and it's possible they may be psyched out by this shock-and-awe Hollywood production telling them that independence is dead and that they have to "move on".  It's therefore conceivable that the next few polls will show some movement towards No.

However that certainly didn't happen before the election, and we mustn't allow unionists to rewrite history about that.  A frequent claim on social media in recent days is that it was never true to say that support for independence was "roughly 50%" and that it was actually averaging at 43%.  The technical term for that claim is "complete and utter tripe".  There have been twelve independence polls since John Swinney became First Minister, and here is the average result - 

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47.5%
No 52.5%

I don't think it's outlandish to suggest 47.5% is "roughly 50%" and it's certainly significantly closer to 50% than to 43%.  In fact only one of the twelve polls had Yes as low as 43%, and there was one that had Yes as high as 51%.

Of course the con trick from unionists here is to leave Don't Knows and Won't Votes in the figures and not mention they're doing that, but that's not the normal way of reporting voting intention polls - if it was, Labour across the UK would be below 20% rather than in the low 30s.  It would also bring the average No vote down below 50%.  In fact, if the calculation is done that way, there hasn't been a single poll showing No on 50% or above since early April.

On balance I think John Swinney should step down - but if they replace him with anyone but Kate Forbes, they'll end up wishing they'd stuck with him

So it's beginning - people of note are starting to call for John Swinney's resignation as SNP leader.  I really am conflicted about this.  After Humza Yousaf resigned, I made no secret of the fact that I thought the SNP were making a mistake in installing John Swinney, especially without a contest - and in fact I felt so strongly about it that I publicised Graeme McCormick's push to get nominations in the hope that a contest would take place.  I suppose in a way I should say I feel vindicated by the outcome of the general election, but the reality is that Swinney's personal ratings have been surprisingly OK since he became leader.  They haven't been stellar, but there were polls during the campaign showing him with better net ratings than Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar. He certainly wasn't getting results like that when he was first leader between 2000 and 2004.

So we have to consider the very real danger that the SNP will make a change and end up worse off. We know there are many leading figures in the SNP for whom the interests of the faction matter more than the interests of the party or the country, and they remain so hellbent on stopping Kate Forbes that they're perfectly capable of trying to install someone totally unsuitable as they did with Yousaf.  If you think things can't get any worse than they currently are, just take one second to imagine Jenny Gilruth as First Minister. OK, more likely, perhaps, would be someone like Neil Gray or Màiri McAllan, but that would be almost as bad an outcome.  I actually do rate Ms McAllan, but at this stage in her career I don't think she would command the confidence of the public as leader.  We also have to bear in mind that literally no-one who might become leader, and this includes Kate Forbes herself, has shown any sign of being interested in a more credible independence strategy than the one Yousaf and Swinney pursued.

An additional concern would be a 'Sunak effect' whereby the SNP lose credibility by having too many leaders in quick succession, and it gets to the point where it almost doesn't matter who the leader is or whether they're any good.

On balance, I think it might be worth taking the risk of a leadership change, simply because my gut feeling is that the members would choose Ms Forbes in the current circumstances - they would now see that she was right when she said continuity wouldn't cut it.  And I think she's the one person with a bit of X Factor about her who might be able to get the SNP back on the front foot and generate some optimism.  But if I'm wrong in my guess, and if the SNP choose almost anyone but her, they'll end up wishing they'd stuck with Swinney.