TORY voters are entitled to feel confused. For 12 years, they have been voting successfully to elect Tory governments, only to be told now that they weren’t Tory governments at all, but pinko imposters betraying the true gospel.

For good measure, there is a Chancellor of the Exchequer whose idea of patriotism is to jape his way through the Queen’s funeral before emerging in triumph to bring the pound to near-parity with the dollar. It’s quite a diet for rational Tories to swallow.

In one view, the most plausible explanation of the Truss administration’s behaviour is that they really don’t have a clue what they are doing but, having been given the keys to the tuck box, intend to enjoy themselves doing it.

“Student politicians who have never grown up”, is how one quite senior Tory described them to me. He belongs to a very large band who find themselves in near exile given the rigid line drawn between those who declared for Truss and the excluded who declined to do so. They will bide their time and may not have long to wait.

Lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses, abolishing the top rate of tax and trashing the pound are indeed the stuff of immature right-wing belligerence, in pursuit of an entirely mythical free market promised land. In the short-term, fortunes were made by their closest friends and backers who bet against the pound. It’s as crude as that.

Changes in personnel at the top of a government usually give rise to a relief factor, however temporary. John Major got the benefit of this in 1992. If there had been a more orderly hand-over, Truss might have been basking in months of suspended judgement which is difficult to see happening now.

For starters, not even the vast sums of money being borrowed will induce any feel-good factor. At best, they might briefly make people feel less bad by pre-empting tax rises and energy bills which have not yet hit. As inflation continues to soar and interest rates rise, there is unlikely to be much lasting gratitude for that.

The Tories have always relied on the image of fiscal responsibility however much they belied it. The benefit of that doubt is unlikely to extend to this lot given the way they have started and boast about intending to go on. If the economy continues to nose-dive, there will be no hiding place for the Truss/Kwarteng gang of buccaneers.

None of this is academic. The threat of impoverishment, both relative to previous expectations, and absolute is now advancing across the land. The value of pensions and savings is eroding before our eyes unless they happen to be in dollars. Energy bills will be beyond the reach of many. Food prices will soar due to the pound’s weakness. Never will the need for a change of government be more clamant.

Yet nothing can be taken for granted. In the 1960s and again in the 1990s, change happened because of a mood which developed over a sustained period that the political pendulum simply had to swing. Tory governments – after 13 and 18 years respectively – had run out of credibility. It was inescapably “time for a change”.

These victories for Labour were the product of long periods of hard work, building the party’s credibility as an alternative government. It was essential to enthuse the electorate about the prospect of an entirely different set of values rather than relying on the Tories to self-destruct, which is always a risky basis on which to proceed.

We are now into the 13th year of Tory government and Labour has wasted most of that time. The period for rebuilding trust has been truncated into a few short years and it remains a race against time. It may look for a while as if the fourth Tory Prime Minister in a decade is making it easy, but that will always be a delusion. There needs to be a national mood that Labour can deliver change in order to make it happen.

Labour needs Scotland to contribute to that outcome and it is time to reassess priorities and possibilities. I was struck by a quote from Sir Tom Devine in the Herald on Saturday when he said: “The wounds inflicted upon British and Scottish society by successive Conservative governments are utterly unacceptable. The only party capable of removing them from office is Labour and so we need to ensure that nothing is done to prevent them in that endeavour. The independence issue can then take care of itself in due course.”

On the constitution, Devine has long since moved from the mantra that “the past is my business” and I have no wish to misrepresent him in that context. However, it is his sense of priorities that should command attention. It is delusionary to pretend the constitutional question will be resolved in the next couple of years but the question of whether the Tories can be ousted certainly will be.

Another quote which caught my eye at the weekend was from a Spanish-born consultant, Dr Maria Corrtege, who expressed frustration with the lack of protest about what is happening to the NHS in Scotland among young people of the left. “Public debate”, she said, “has been kidnapped by independence. That’s a useful way of hiding things under the carpet.”

A Scottish generation has had it drummed into them that the dividing line in politics is about the constitution rather than the ideologies of right and left in the here and now. It is the chasm of difference between what Truss’s Tories and Starmer’s Labour will offer Scotland and the rest of the UK that will shape lives and prospects for decades to come.

It is indeed time to focus on that question and let the constitution take care of itself “in due course”. By then, the alternative to independence might even be seen as the virtue of unity rather than the bogey of Unionism.