John Swinney made it clear at the very start of the week he wasn't going to be the third SNP leader who would be quitting in less than 18 months.

And despite the party's election rout last night and tears shed by its former MPs, this situation hasn't changed - and won't for some time.

Speaking in Edinburgh after a catastrophic night for the party, the First Minister said he took full responsibility for the campaign which saw the party drop dozens of seats.

“The Scottish National Party needs to be healed and it needs to heal its relationship with the people of Scotland, and I am absolutely committed to doing that,” he said.

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The First Minister took on the role at the of the party uncontested in May after a period of unprecedented turmoil since Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation in February last year.

Those months saw Ms Sturgeon arrested by the police investigating SNP's finances (and released without charge), charges of embezzlement brought against her husband Peter Murrell, the SNP's former chief executive, a bitter leadership contest to succeed her, the collapse of Bute House Agreement, and the resignation of her successor Humza Yousaf.

(Image: Colin Mearns) Former SNP MP Anne McLaughlin, seated with her phone, pictured with supporters at the Glasgow count last night.  Photo: Colin Mearns.

Mr Swinney took on the role of leader to stabilise the party and bring unity. He is widely thought to have brought some calm to a party in crisis and despite the devastating defeat there is no mood in the SNP to remove him as the party licks its wounds.

Hence he confidently told BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Monday he would be remaining as leader "into the 2026 Holyrood election and well beyond" when he was asked if he would step down if the SNP "took a really bad drubbing" and pressed if it would be time for "a fresh start" for the party.

However, while it may be the case that Mr Swinney's party will for now quite happily see him lead them into the Holyrood elections, whether he stays on "well beyond 2026", as he said a few days ago he would, may not be up up to him.

(Image: Gordon Terris) Former SNP MP Joanna Cherry pictured at last night's election count in Edinburgh. Photo: Gordon Terris.

With polling on Holyrood voting intentions close whether Mr Swinney remains as leader after May 2026 will depend very much if the SNP win that election.

It is likely that should the SNP lose under Mr Swinney, the party may well think he's had sufficient time as leader and it would be time for a change.

On the other hand, should the SNP win in 2026 it would be natural for Mr Swinney to celebrate that success and stay as leader for a new period as First Minister.

READ MORE: Swinney: We have failed to convince Scots on independence

For how long exactly, that is likely to become a big question both from within his own party and from journalists.

If he was to serve a full term in office as First Minister from 2026 to 2030 Mr Swinney by 2030 will have been in government for 23 years, may well be exhausted by the pressures of running the country and at the age of 66 could feel ready to retire from being First Minister.

He may of course, wish to carry on, but in the world of politics is likely there may be calls for him to serve just part of a term and to hand over to a new leader ahead of the 2030 election. Perhaps we could even see the Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes move into the FM's role at some point in the 2026 - 2030 parliament in a repeat of the Salmond-Sturgeon style succession of 2014?

READ MORE: SNP candidate in key Highland seat 'will not attend recount'

But let's come back to today, July 5 2024 and consider where the SNP and independence are now.

Let's be clear, the defeat to Labour in Scotland and the loss of 39 seats is a humiliating blow for the party.

The SNP has now just nine seats to Labour's 37 north of the border (with one seat left to declare tomorrow) - hardly a position that means it can continue to say it is 'Scotland's party' - and far short of the 29 it aimed to win in order to negotiate a mandate for a second independence referendum with the new Prime Minister Keir Starmer.

It's a massive setback for a party more using to winning than losing since the 2015 general election - when it won 56 of Scotland's 59 seats at Westminster taking almost 50% of votes across the country.

(Image: Colin Mearns)

UK parliament general election 2024 vote count at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow. Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour with new Labour Glasgow MP's from left- Zubir Ahmed, Maureen Burke, Gordon McKee, Anas, Patricia Ferguson, Martin Rhodes and John Grady. Photograph by Colin Mearns.5th July 2024.

But apart from the psychological impact on candidates, activists, MSPs and the party's remaining MPs, the result will also be damaging to the party's finances.

The loss of its status as the third largest party in the Commons means the SNP could face a substantial amount of "short money".

This result would be a hammer blow to the party's finances, with it facing a substantial reduction in short money - the funds given to opposition parties which is awarded based on seats and votes won.

Short money is intended to help opposition parties through additional support, making it easier for their MPs to undertake parliamentary duties. The financial allocation is used to hire and pay for staff, researchers and for travel expenses.

According to the House of Commons Library, the SNP was awarded £1,301,552.04 of short money in 2022/23.

Mr Swinney's party has previously faced questions about its own finances, with its most recent published accounts reporting an annual loss of £804,278.

The drop in funding is likely to have a negative impact on the party's ability to highlight and campaign on its policies at a crucial time with just 22 months to go before the next Holyrood election.

Labour has already set its sights on returning to power in Scotland with the Westminster election see as a springboard for the 2026 vote.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said the result gave his party momentum that he would use to try and unseat the SNP from government at the 2026 Holyrood election.

Addressing jubilant supporters in Glasgow this morning, he said he will “redouble” efforts get his party into government in Edinburgh after wiping out almost a decade of SNP dominance of Scotland’s Westminster seats at the UK General Election.

In an interview with the Herald on Sunday last weekend, Jackie Baillie, the party's deputy leader and co-chair of the election campaign, was hopeful that her party can retain the support of soft Yes voters it attracted on Thursday in its bid to return to power in Holyrood.

Labour will continue to appeal to this group of voters by highlighting what it regards as the shortcomings of the SNP's record in power, the lack of a clear route to independence and the fading of the independence cause as a key concern among voters, more worried about the NHS, the economy and the cost of living.

To counter Labour momentum, and increase its own chances of returning to power the SNP will have to regain the trust of voters - something recognised explicitly by both Mr Swinney and by Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes in the wake of the results.

The First Minister will aim to do that by setting out his new Programme for Government and revised tax plans for the year ahead.

Mr Swinney had intended to unveil both before the start of the Holyrood recess at the end of last month, but his intention to do so was scuppered due to pre-election guidance on civil service impartiality.

Some clues over what his likely focus were given when unveiled his priorities for government on May 22 - announcing that his government will focus on four areas targeted to have the most immediate benefits for people in their everyday lives: eradicating child poverty; growing the economy, tackling the climate emergency and improving public services.

And what about independence? Where does the cause stand now?

Fundamentally, it will be back to the drawing board for Scotland's national question with the ambition look set to be put on hold for many years to come

The initial indication the matter would be shelved came from Nicola Sturgeon last night who said the result may take independence “off the immediate agenda” though she insisted it would be “foolish” to think the issue has gone away.

It was a brutal assessment for a senior SNP politician who just two years ago wanted to use the general election as a "de facto" referendum on independence.

But she wasn't alone, in his speech to supporters in Edinburgh this morning Mr Swinney conceded his party had “failed to convince people of the urgency of independence”.

“I have to accept that we failed to convince people of the urgency of independence in this election campaign.

“Therefore, we need to take the time to consider and to reflect on how we deliver our commitment to independence – which remains absolute," he told supporters.

“As somebody who has devoted their entire adult life to the winning of Scottish independence – not for an abstract reason, but because I believe it will transform the lives of our people for the better – we need to get that approach correct in the forthcoming period.

“I accept that we need to engage with, listen to and learn from the people of Scotland on how we take forward our arguments for independence.”

Central, of course, to rebuilding the case for independence will be restoring the trust the SNP has lost among most Scottish voters.

It is an aim underlined by Mr Swinney in his address today.

“The Scottish National Party needs to be healed and it needs to heal its relationship with the people of Scotland, and I am absolutely committed to doing that,” he said.

How long it takes to do that will determine how long the independence cause is put on hold.