Only a couple of months ago, the SNP was going to treat the next UK general election as a pretend vote on independence – but the party is drawing up a new blueprint, and it revolves around Labour.

Whether or not the SNP would have seen out its unhinged ‘de facto’ referendum strategy if the party hadn’t started to eat itself will remain a mystery. Remember, in four months’ time, we were heading to the polls for Indyref2 under the original plan.

The English local elections were always going to be really bad for the Tories – it’s quite clear a substantial amount of the public has had enough and it looks like the billionaire prime minister cannot stop the rot.

Labour’s confidence is sky-high – Sir Keir Starmer is adamant the local election results for parts of England with a very low turnout means his party is on course to form the next majority government at Westminster.

This is a sentiment echoed by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar today, who claimed that the English results alongside polling in Scotland, Wales and London, shows “we can deliver that majority Labour government”.

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But it is clear the local election results are more a bad result for the Conservatives rather than simply great news for Labour.

For example, a surge in support for the LibDems in England does far more harm to the Tories than it does to Labour, given the first-past-the-post electoral system and very few marginal seats between Labour and the LibDems.

Withstanding more political drama in the next 18 months (surely not), Labour is on course to become the biggest party at Westminster.

But huge questions remain over whether Sir Keir’s party can secure a majority in the Commons – requiring an enormous swing in favour of Labour across all parts of the UK.

This is where the SNP have a chance to move the narrative away from its flailing independence strategy, very much on life support, and put the focus on the potential hung parliament the party will have influence over.

If polling is to be believed, Labour will close the gap with the SNP at the next general election in Scotland. That is almost guaranteed, given the party’s starting point is the solitary MP, mega-unionist Ian Murray.

We will have to wait until polling day to see how much progress Scottish Labour has made under Mr Sarwar, but a hung parliament is a hugely-likely prospect, regardless of how well the party does in Scotland.

Even if the SNP has a grim night at the next general election, a distinct possibility as things stand, it will not be obliterated.

If there is no Westminster majority, the SNP will likely hold the balance of power.

The party’s first demand is an obvious one – the elusive second referendum.

But the chances of Sir Keir giving into that demand are nil, given the political consequences both internally and externally, especially at a time the Labour leader will be flapping away attempting to form a government and become prime minister. There is more chance of Jeremy Corbyn being readmitted to the Labour Party.

But what could the SNP demand in return for giving Labour the keys to Downing Street?

One ask we already know about is that the SNP will call for the mess caused by Brexit to be reversed.

Mr Yousaf’s party has for some time painted Labour as a pro-Brexit party – and that is a pretty accurate characterisation.

Sir Keir has chosen to flirt with the northern English ‘red wall’ over former Labour strongholds in Scotland with his strategy ending any hope of the UK rejoining the European Union.

This makes political sense at a UK-wide level, but causes a nightmare for Scottish Labour, and could realistically stunt the party’s growth north of the Border.

The LibDems embarrassingly gained nothing from going into coalition with the Tories in 2010, except electoral wipeout and a referendum on voting reform the party didn’t even properly subscribe to.

But the very idea of a hung parliament next year will alter the general election campaign, particularly in Scotland.

It could potentially give the SNP a sense of purpose away from the party troubles, if that is still hanging over it by the end of next year.

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