There are just two creatures in nature who can decapitate themselves and survive: the Sacoglossan sea slug and the SNP. The sea slug can lose its own head and go on living. The SNP can lose a leader, a deputy leader, a chief executive, a chief spin doctor and a chief advisor in the space of a month. However, the question for the party is: can it rival the sea slug and go on living following self-decapitation, or will it just keel over and die?

I’m old enough to remember when ructions over the SNP banning reporters from hustings and the gospels according to Kate Forbes seemed to be as self-destructive as the party could get. Then Ash Regan started talking about "independence thermometers" and all bets were off. Today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that when this extended act of self-harm known as a "leadership contest" finally ends, the winner – whoever that may be – will pull off a mask, Scooby Doo-style, and reveal the smirking face of Alex Salmond.

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Nicola Sturgeon parachuted to safety a month ago from a plane that the public were as yet unaware was on fire. Since then we’ve had ultra-biblical religion, Brexiter-esque Scottish nationalism (we’ll just declare independence, right?), the circular firing squad of candidates trashing each other and their party’s entire period in government, the lies and chaos around membership numbers, Stop the Steal-type claims countered by howls of "Trumpianism!", and threats to use the courts to halt the contest.

Have I missed anything? It’s hard to keep track of the sheer stupid, selfish, weirdness of the SNP. The party is riven from top to bottom. One camp accuses the other of a stitch-up. In response, the alleged stitcher-uppers say their attackers are a Caledonian QAnon.

Read more: SNP is pushing progressive voters into the arms of Labour

For years, the SNP courted the worst fringes of online cybernatdom. When the beasts got out of control, the boss class distanced themselves and condemned. Too late, amigos. Now the beast is eating you alive while the public watches, and unionists River Dance in delight.

The SNP deserves every agony. The party has conned this country for years. Until Ms Sturgeon’s departure we were lead to believe it was a touchy-feely party of progressives. What utter lies. The party has no ideology beyond petty nationalism. It only believes in independence. That’s it. Behind this petty nationalism, there’s centrist progressives like Humza Yousaf, social and financial conservatives like Kate Forbes, and outright populists like Ash Regan. Economically, Ms Forbes flirts with Tartan Toryism; Ms Regan channels the ghost of William Wallace with talk of "Braveheart not faint hearts".

Who could vote for this party any more? Once this contest is over, regardless of winner, voter flight is inevitable. If Mr Yousaf loses, the progressive wing of the SNP is gone; if he wins, the progressive wing will be all that remains. And to think: Sunday was to be the party’s special conference on the path to independence. What a sick joke.

What’s most disturbing is how deeply psychologically troubled this party is: we’re seeing "the Paranoid Style" in Scottish politics. Paranoid parties always go in dangerous directions. Step forward America’s Republicans, and the Tories.

The SNP cares nothing for the electorate. Real issues of substance have barely registered in this contest. It’s either been "independence, independence, independence" or knifing each other. There is not one damn given to the 50%-plus of the Scottish electorate who don’t support independence. There is no attempt to unify a nation that’s been divided by years now thanks to the SNP.

Read more: SNP needs a spell in opposition to rediscover its soul

Ms Sturgeon should be admired and damned in equal measure for what’s happened. It must have taken the powers of Hercules to hold this band of lunatics together. Yet she also allowed such internal loathing to fester that it has suppurated and spewed its pus all over the body politic. She even had the gall the other day to say that what we’re seeing is simply "growing pains". The only sense in which "growing pains" is applicable to this leadership contest is through the metaphor of a werewolf bursting out of its own skin and running off howling into the night.

The party is now like the infamous Fyre Festival. If you recall, the Fyre Festival was a pure Emperor’s New Clothes moment. Fyre was billed at the ultimate luxury music festival on a secluded Caribbean island. Getting a ticket put you in the jet-set. Sadly, it was all nonsense. The suckers who paid a fortune to go to Fyre ended up defecating in a bucket and begging for bottles of water.

Where exactly is rock bottom now for the SNP? We’ve a week of this bloody madness still to go. What next? I write novels and my imagination cannot match the reality of what the SNP has done these last few weeks.

Rock bottom for the SNP is likely Labour-style oblivion. The party is done. It will split at some point. There is only one decent path it can take. Even criminals can achieve some redemption if, when they’re collared, they hold their hands up, confess and try to make amends.

Read more: Scotland needs a reset – it's time to call an election

If the SNP wishes redemption, it needs to get through this hellscape of a leadership contest and then whoever wins must immediately call a Holyrood election.

The party that Scotland now beholds is not the party which was voted into power. The mask has long fallen off and what lies beneath is something as unfit for government as the Tory Party in England. In fact, the similarities with the Tories run strong: a rabble at war with itself, prepared to sacrifice the interests of the nation for the interests of the party. Who, after all, is governing Scotland, with any sense of purpose, dignity or thought, while this putrid game plays out?

If whoever gets voted in as First Minister can find the decency to hold an election, then perhaps they might win – stress is on the word "perhaps". That could start some form of renewal. Polls, though, look increasingly unfriendly to nationalists. So don’t hold your breath. An election won’t happen. That’s a shame. The only way for the SNP to recover is for the party to lose, and experience a necessary educational period in opposition.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald

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