This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Humza Yousaf better have an anthology of Robert Frost poems, as he really needs to read ‘The Road Not Taken’.

It might prepare him for what looks like an inevitable Labour landslide that will crush the Tories, most probably for a decade at least, and put the entire nationalist project in a ditch.

The poem begins: ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood’. And Scotland’s yellow party is certainly in the woods right now. Labour’s astonishing success at the Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth by-elections leaves the SNP pretty must lost in a deep, dark forest.

While nothing is certain, a hefty Labour majority beckons. That leaves two roads open for the SNP. 

Clearly, independence is over for the foreseeable future. The SNP won’t get indyref2 from Keir Starmer. Even fools see that. Why would any new Prime Minister risk a vote that might break up Britain?

So the SNP can try to keep walking down this road, insisting that indy-is-coming, that voting for the SNP is a vote for independence, but that only ensures defeat when Scotland goes to the polls.

To survive, the SNP must wake up. British politics right now – and Britain includes Scotland – is about two issues: getting the Tories out, and fixing the mess they’ve made. That means voters want to hear about the economy, the cost of living, the NHS, schools, policing and public services.

They don’t want to hear about fantasy-tomorrows which will never come.

The SNP’s tragedy is that it won’t stop with the phoney indy-is-coming game. Even today – even after Rutherglen – its deluded base persists in claiming ‘nobody will vote for Red Tories’. They’ll still be singing that song when the electoral tide rolls over them like King Canute and washes them away.

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But remember, in the Frost poem, there are two roads that diverge in a yellow wood. If the SNP wakes up and takes the other road – the road that doesn’t put independence first and always – there might be some hope for them.

The SNP’s best bet is to try to retain power at the next Holyrood election. To do that, they must make a decent fist of the Westminster election first. To achieve that, the party will have to perform one almighty u-turn, shoving independence onto the back-burner and putting voter concerns front and centre.

It’s hard to see how they pull that off. Would anyone buy it? The SNP is so boxed in by its indy rhetoric that the entire playing field, when it comes to fixing the Tory mess, has been gifted to Labour. 

Yes, Scotland is different, yes there are indy die-hards who will always vote SNP. But are there enough? The cost of living crisis has decoupled a lot – certainly not all, but a lot – of independence support from the SNP. 

The Herald: 'The SNP is so boxed in by its indy rhetoric that the entire playing field has been gifted to Labour''The SNP is so boxed in by its indy rhetoric that the entire playing field has been gifted to Labour' (Image: Newsquest)
If Yousaf cannot win back the growing numbers of voters who leant the SNP their support, but now want to see Labour take out the Tories, then the Westminster election might end his premiership.

If Yousaf keeps the SNP’s head above water at the UK general election, he could survive and lead his party into the next Scottish election. But if he does, what then?

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The SNP won’t be able to claim indy-is-coming anymore, as we’ll all know that’s just a dumb lie. The SNP will become a party incapable of achieving its principle purpose. Hollowed out. Pointless.

Both roads, then, seem to lead deeper into dark woods, just to varying degrees.

Frost’s poem ends with the narrator saying that “ages hence”, he’ll tell readers which road he chose, “with a sigh”. Yousaf should listen to the lament.