WITH uncanny timing the fourth and final series of Succession starts the same day the new leader of the SNP, and next First Minister of Scotland, is announced.

If you are unfamiliar with the Sky Atlantic comedy-drama, it stars our own Brian Cox as media magnate Logan Roy. The dictatorial Roy has spent three series keeping his warring children on their toes as to who will succeed him as head of the family empire.

Such a pity the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, was not in charge of scripting the SNP’s succession battle. At least then the victor might be a halfway credible character.

As it is, Scotland could wake from this experience with the worst First Minister since devolution, an individual elected by a minority and held in contempt by the majority. And that’s just the best case scenario.

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How did it come to this? Since Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation I have had many a conversation that has featured that question. People are genuinely bewildered. Their reasoning goes like this: fair enough, we’re a small nation in population terms, but we’re not poor and we’re certainly not stupid. Every day five million of us manage to go about our business, earn money, spend money, look after others, make important decisions, no drama.

Yet here we are, standing on the sidelines as one of three individuals, none of them with a cv you would describe as glowing, is installed in the highest office in the land. How through the looking glass is that?

It was not meant to be this way. After Ms Sturgeon resigned, Lorna Finn, the SNP’s national secretary, assured the public that the party was “full of talented individuals” who now had the chance to put themselves forward as leader. So we waited, and waited, and waited, and now we come to this pretty pass.

The current First Minister must take her share of the blame for how things have turned out. Her resignation came out of nowhere, with only a select few, including Humza Yousaf, being given any notice. It was not like Conservative leadership contests, where teams are ready to spring in action at the first whiff of a regicide on the way.

Worse than the lack of notice was the complete absence of any succession planning. Ms Sturgeon's predecessor, Alex Salmond, had ensured his continued influence on the party by lining her up to take over if and when the time came. Given the chance to choose, he opted for Nicola Sturgeon. Handed the same opportunity, Nicola Sturgeon could see no further than Nicola Sturgeon.

In such circumstances, an organisation would expect the chief executive to come forward with a plan. Preparing for the future is, after all, a fundamental part of the job.

Yet in this instance the chief executive was married to the chief bolter. He had no plan. It was one of a long list of reasons why having the CEO married to the party leader and First Minister was a terrible idea, but few were listening.

As it turned out, the wiser heads who might have been expected to go for the leadership ran a mile in the opposite direction. It’s a phenomenon often seen in nature documentaries. One of the herd gets a sniff of trouble coming and slowly the feeling spreads. Off they dash as one, leaving the oblivious to their fate.

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It is especially galling that Scotland should find itself short of high calibre candidates for the top job. For generations, centuries, the country has been supplying political talent to all the major parties. Scotland was the production line that never halted, and many a Prime Minister was grateful for it.

Take the Thatcher and Blair cabinets. When the Conservative leader looked around her she could see Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Malcolm Rifkind, George Younger, Michael Forsyth, Ian Lang, Lord Caithness, Norman Lamont, to name but a few. Blair would have been lost if not for Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling (and Alastair Campbell), John Reid, George Robertson, Donald Dewar … the list goes on.

Every political party, every Whitehall department, every branch of the state, every newspaper and broadcaster has benefited from wave after wave of Scottish talent heading south.

Few could blame them given the times. The attractions of London aside, there was little here to detain them. If you wanted a national political career it had to be Westminster.

The Herald: 'Blair would have been lost if not for Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling (and Alastair Campbell), John Reid, George Robertson, Donald Dewar… the list goes on''Blair would have been lost if not for Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling (and Alastair Campbell), John Reid, George Robertson, Donald Dewar… the list goes on' (Image: Newsquest)

One of the reasons often given for the Scottish Parliament is that it would give a home to local talent and produce more.

More than two decades on, would anyone say the chamber is packed with the best and the brightest Scotland has to offer?

There is something particularly saddening that it should be the SNP found wanting when the time came to put forward a new leader. If it was any party’s job to spot and nurture talent, to stake a claim to the future, it was the SNP.

The party, in its prime, has been home to some genuine political giants. Individuals who had intellectual heft and popular appeal, who could hold their own against anyone in debate, original thinkers, ideas men and women, or who knew where to find them. Politicians who made you proud to be from the same place as them, even if you did not support their team.

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Some are still around, and thank goodness for it, others are sorely missed, but where are the Sillars, the Margos, the Neils, the Salmonds, the Wilsons of today?

The SNP is hardly alone in neglecting to invest in its future. Politics as a profession has become so discredited that it is struggling to attract new recruits outside of the usual channels.

Fewer MPs and MSPs know what it is to hold a proper job outside politics. A hinterland to them is knowing every episode of The Thick of It back to front. It’s not a bad preparation, but on its own it is not a path to greatness or, just as valuable, being a good public servant.

We don't seem able or willing to stop the rot. Like attracts like and people of genuine merit steer clear. We wish it otherwise but not to the extent of doing anything about it, bar voting. Perhaps the brutal truth here is that we get the politicians we deserve.

Even so, this trio? Logan Roy would give them short shrift. Scotland, alas, does not have that luxury.