Although I always want the Tories to lose every election they fight, I had a sense of foreboding last night when it became clear the Liberal Democrats had unexpectedly won the Chesham and Amersham by-election, because the result has a potential 'game-changer' feel about it. Until now, the Lib Dems had been beginning to look like an irrelevance, and that suited the SNP down to the ground, both electorally and in the sense of staking their claim to be treated by the media as their status as the third largest party in the Commons would warrant. We know from the experience of the 2017-19 parliament that the BBC and others will leap on any signs of Lib Dem recovery as an excuse to get back into the comfort zone of pretending that the UK has a three-party system - with the Lib Dems as the third party.
The by-election result can perhaps be seen as the Tories' equivalent of what happened to the SNP in 2017 - the moment it becomes clear that a slightly unnatural coalition of support can't hold together forever. In 2015 the SNP had made dramatic inroads into former Labour heartlands by becoming the undisputed party of Yes voters - and yet they hadn't paid a corresponding penalty in the No-voting areas they had held for decades, like Moray. 2017 was the inevitable belatedly catching up with them, and by the same token the Tories can't really expect to continue to have a clear run in seats like Chesham and Amersham where voters are unlikely to approve of the nationalistic, illiberal and populist message that demolished the Red Wall. The SNP reacted to their 2017 setback by completely losing their nerve and putting their objectives firmly on the backburner (it appeared that losing Moray was harder for them to bear than losing the prospect of independence) - my guess is the Tories will not make the same mistake.
To return to the subject of the controversy over the "missing £600,000" of donations that the SNP were supposed to have ring-fenced to fight an indyref campaign, in a sense that's the chickens coming home to roost after the strategic error of 2017. The SNP paid a lot of heed in the aftermath of the 2017 election to the voters that had lost them seats to the Tories - but they forgot to pay heed to pro-independence voters who had, after all, just won them the election on the specific basis that such an outcome would constitute a "triple-lock mandate" for a referendum. They also paid no attention to the wishes of the people who had donated so generously to the referendum campaign fund - indeed they very cynically did the opposite by scrapping the referendum and spending the money on other things (nobody seems to know quite what). Exactly the same principle applies to the SNP's core support as it does to SNP-Tory floating voters in Banffshire or wherever - if you take those people for granted, eventually there'll be a penalty to be paid, even if it takes a while to feed through.
The simplest way to sort out this mess is simply to name the date for the independence referendum, even if it's in 2022 or 2023. People won't mind quite so much about misused/squandered cash if we get back on track for the goal that cash was raised for. Indeed, if a referendum was called, it would probably be quite easy and quick to raise another £600,000. Everyone would be a winner - well, apart from the unionist parties.