IS the SNP a broad enough church to house Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and their followers? Or, as Herald columnist Andy Mciver suggested last week, would it be a better strategy to accept the inevitable and let these distinctive groups go their own ways – into new parties or the Labour and Tory parties, turning them over time towards indyref2 and self-determination?

Predictions of a split have heightened since Peter Murrell’s resignation as the SNP chief executive, but that long overdue departure may have made disintegration less likely. There will now be a fresh start, whichever candidate wins. And for independence supporters, that’s a motivation to stay solid.

After 2014, Yessers essentially side-lined other allegiances and bunched into one party for a reason. Minorities (even 45% ones) must look as large and unified as possible to be taken seriously in Britain – a variant of the unfair logic that makes women work harder and perform better than men to get jobs.

The unspoken indy logic has been that the SNP must look bigger, more united, ready to go, ethical, competent and more argument-free than any other party, to win any kind of hearing in a hostile, union-centric Britain.

Such hyper loyalty has been tough, unnatural and has just fallen apart. But that doesn’t mean SNP members are ready to chuck the baby out with the bath water. In Westminster elections, votes for smaller parties are unfairly but unavoidably wasted votes. First past the post means winner takes all, so the SNP has had to bulk up to play Britain's largest parties ¬ – Labour and the Tories – at their own game. That had to happen to stay noticed in a UK that routinely ignores smaller voices/parties and nations unless they cause trouble.

Let's be honest: there would have been no attention paid to Scotland or the case for independence these last 15 years if it had been spread across two or three parties, each destined to become valiant losers in FPTP general elections. In a top-down Britain all that Westminster understands is its own twin currency ¬ – size and clout.

Besides, depending on who wins the SNP leadership, where will the disgruntled members go? As Alba and other small breakaway parties have demonstrated, life’s not easy beyond the mainstream. You must somehow maintain a nationwide membership and apparatus with relatively little income and endure almost total exclusion from the media.

The SNP grafted away for half a century to become an “overnight success” in 2007. Meanwhile, other small parties elected during the Rainbow parliament in 2003 have waxed and waned, some bedevilled by the personal problems of leaders, but all crushed by the division of political opinion into two camps: unionism and nationalism. Nothing that’s happened this weekend undoes that polarity.

So, it will take some doing to convince SNP members whose clan loses on March 27th, that the time is right to venture elsewhere. And ironically, pro-independence opinion will only continue to grow inside the main unionist parties, if the SNP maintains a powerful presence.

Maybe logic dictates a “useful splintering” of indy support into its constituent political parts, but electoral reality doesn't work that way. And in any case, a left/right split isn’t the real fault-line to emerge during this leadership contest – though that and independence strategy should be ¬ – it’s the conduct of the party and its internal democracy.

Discontent with the talk-to-the-hand approach of Mr Murrell is the real animus in this campaign. If you could thole it, as Humza Yousaf seemed ready to do, even the most loyal members may now question your judgement. If you were challenging it like Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, left and socially liberal SNP members may be prepared to hold their noses about equal marriage and the independence thermometer to make sure internal change actually happens.

Whether that’s a wise choice, time will tell. But the SNP should understand the power of a fresh broom narrative – they used it themselves to great effect in 2007, sweeping away an entitled Labour Party that had fallen into managing its support rather than responding to it.

No-one should under-estimate the damage done to the SNP by Mr Murrell’s resignation about membership figures he withheld from comms chief Murray Foote. But Mr Murrell’s enduring presence at the top would have been more damaging and his departure does create a clean sweep.

All the old guard are now gone or going – Nicola Sturgeon, her deputy John Swinney, chief adviser Liz Lloyd and now the chief executive. If Mr Yousaf wins, he no longer has the difficult task of sacking his predecessor’s husband. If Ms Forbes or Ms Regan win, they start without defensiveness and opposition – at the very top of the party anyway.

So, SNP members will certainly feel de-stabilised by the loss of Scotland’s “power couple”, but worse than both leaving was the prospect of one staying. As it is, Ms Forbes is not calling for the election to be abandoned or re-run, which might explain the delay in Ms Regan’s own announcement about whether to take legal action or just carry on.

Most members have already voted. So, if Mr Yousaf eventually wins, he may reflect that he was lucky – if he loses, then he was well beaten. Mr Yousaf could have nipped disquiet in the bud, pledging to replace a chief executive who had won elections but also presided over a loss of members, a national treasurer resigning two years ago over lack of access to the books, an ongoing police investigation and a growing powder keg of dissatisfaction amongst party members over heavily managed candidate selection procedures, increasingly corporate conferences and a lofty, controlling attitude towards members by a remote SNP leadership.

All of this has to change. And if the winning candidate can do that, quickly, they’ll have a better chance of keeping the party together than actually existed in the old “wheesht for indy” days of the recent past.