Could the SNP win the next Scottish election and continue its domination of Scottish politics into the 2030s, perhaps forcing the UK Government to consent to that second independence vote?

Ha! No chance, you might retort (quite reasonably), it's in too much of a fankle.

On the face of it, that’s all there is to it. During the usually-quiet summer recess, an SNP MP has been suspended from the party’s Westminster group and vowed to remain an independent for now, a slew of others have announced they’re not standing at the next election and a party official in Fife says he’s thinking of challenging Humza Yousaf for the leadership. Newly-minted rebel Fergus Ewing is also proving quite the thorn in Mr Yousaf’s side. Discipline is breaking down.

Meanwhile, the police investigation into the SNP’s finances rumbles on. All this is taking place against a backdrop of policy failures and diminishing public support. Labour is miles ahead in the UK polls and gaining momentum in Scotland. The whiff of decline around the SNP is getting stronger and when voters decide it’s time for a change, convincing them that a fresh start is possible with the same old tired faces is a near-hopeless game.

A decisive SNP victory in 2026, then, is hard to imagine.

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But it’s not impossible. It will return many seats even on a bad day – who else are independence supporters going to vote for? – but whether it is still the largest party next time round and in a position to form another government, depends on Labour.

How well Anas Sarwar’s party performs will in turn depend on Sir Keir Starmer. If Sir Keir wins the General Election and delivers a popular programme quickly, then Scottish Labour will benefit; if he doesn’t, the SNP will.

The election cycles of Scotland’s two governments are potentially to the SNP’s advantage.

The UK goes to the polls soon, probably next year, and Labour is in pole position to form a government, but there won’t be much time to deliver tangible change before the Scottish election.

It should be said that if Labour somehow lost the General Election, and the Conservatives won a fifth consecutive term at Westminster, then all bets are off. Labour would be plunged into despair, and the SNP could win big.

That looks pretty unlikely. Much more likely is that Sir Keir will walk into Downing Street.

This, for a majority of voters on these islands (even in England, where most voters do not support the Conservatives), would be a euphoric event.

But euphoria wears off quickly and then the voting public, distressed and wearied by a protracted cost-of-living crisis, will be expecting to see things improve. The difficulty Labour has is that it is playing the long game when it comes to delivering on its promises.

Labour is eschewing big spending commitments, so as to avoid falling into the trap Ed Miliband did in 2015 when he lost amid accusations he would overspend and add to the deficit.

Two key positions have been taken so far by Labour to underline their fiscal responsibility: earlier plans to borrow £28bn a year for a (desperately needed) green transformation fund have been postponed, now to be “ramped up” by the middle of the first parliament. And the Labour leadership have indicated that they will not abandon the two-child policy straight away, under which benefits are only paid for the first two children in a household, a policy which is implicated in exacerbating child poverty.

There is also no movement on reversing, or easing, Brexit.

These are totemic policy positions; indeed, they appear to have been chosen precisely because they are so Tory-sounding.

But those lines, so helpful in red wall constituencies in England, are the opposite of helpful in Scotland. With a Scottish election due no more than two years after the next General Election, these policy stances are a gift to the SNP. By sticking with Brexit, postponing the green transformation and keeping a benefits limit many Labour MPs and MSPs hate, Labour are handing the nationalists ammunition.

If Sir Keir doesn’t make good things happen within the first 18 months then Anas Sarwar will have a tough job on his hands in the 2026 Holyrood election.

Sir Keir is positioning himself well to attract anti-Tory protest votes but hasn’t given the electorate a positive reason to vote for Labour. He’s not enthusing anyone. He has yet to offer a package of Labour goodies to light the flame of hope in these dark times.

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By contrast, offering a vision has never been a problem for the SNP, with its over-the-rainbow marketing of an independent Scotland. The SNP will also argue that even in times of trouble, politicians must have priorities and that, unlike the SNP with its Scottish Child payment and bedroom tax mitigation, Labour by keeping the two-child limit is showing it doesn’t have the right priorities; that it’s become indistinguishable from the Tories (though whether people buy that is another matter).

There was, of course, a second reason that Ed Miliband lost in 2015: Scottish nationalism. Labour must have something to offer Scotland that goes beyond stolid unionism. Opinion is divided within Labour about Gordon Brown’s recommendations for creating a Senate of the Nations and Regions (which Anas Sarwar favours) and Sir Keir is yet to reveal his position on such broad constitutional reform. Mr Brown’s other recommendations include strengthening the Sewel Convention and allowing the Scottish Government to enter into international agreements.

Critically, Labour has not disowned its progressive, hopeful agenda. It has called for realism about its ability in current economic circumstances to do everything it wants to do as quickly as it would like. It hasn’t reneged on those things in principle.

But if an incoming Labour government is to set the scene for a Labour resurgence at Holyrood in 2026, they must be delivering on these issues by the time Scotland goes to the polls. Otherwise, the superannuated SNP Government at St Andrew's House, unbelievable as it might seem right now, could take Scotland into the 2030s.