One of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest confidantes contacted me after my last column. They’ve been at the very heart of the SNP, key to everything the party said, thought and did. Their first words were: “Ooft. Harsh but sadly accurate in most part.”

As I’m a vocal, if moderate, supporter of independence, we’ve spoken candidly before. I was, however, taken aback by their honesty this time. The column in question had certainly been harsh.

I wrote that the party had decapitated itself, that it was done; it had shattered itself through this leadership contest; lied to voters about what it really stood for; that the new leader should call an election once installed; and that defeat in that election might be a good lesson which would teach the SNP some humility and help it rediscover a sense of purpose.

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I even said the SNP was as unfit for government as the Tory Party in England. So for someone who has been so central to the SNP to say that I was “sadly accurate in most part” was quite something.

How on earth did this happen, I asked them. The answer ran thus: lack of competition, complacency, and – as they put it, “the tough bit”: the “culture of the organisation”. When party culture is off, they said, that’s “always when stuff goes wrong”.

Read more: Just how much lower can this SNP rabble sink?

The “kinder answer", they added, is that after the 2007 election victory, when Alex Salmond formed the SNP’s first government, the party faced “the global financial crash, austerity, the referendum and its loss, a change of leadership [to Nicola Sturgeon], Alex Salmond “going a bit, err, off”, Brexit, the “crisis” between Salmond and Sturgeon, Covid, war and the cost of living crisis.

They’re right. No other party has faced such a string of horrors as no other party in Britain has been in power that long. But it’s still no excuse for the destructive, juvenile shambles of the leadership contest. They agreed. There was “much [party leaders] should have done”. They added: “I am deeply irked and have been for a while.”

I pointed out that many leftie-liberal voters were concerned to discover the party’s progressive veneer hid a mix of social conservatives like Kate Forbes, and populists like Ash Regan, and this isn’t what they’d voted for. “Yes, I do understand that very much,” they said. Then rather gnomically they added: “Most of the Scottish political scene is self-indulgent and self-satisfied … the mettle has never been tested by contact with harsh reality. Like Liz Truss really.” They concluded with this: “It is – as you say – awful … It’s worse as a devotee.”

I salute their candour. It’s a shame the party’s base doesn’t have the same humility and intelligence. Right now, SNP groundlings have reverted to their natural state: "wheest for indy" and hurling accusations of treachery. Nobody must question the party. To do so imperils independence, that’s how their "thinking" goes. They cannot see that it’s years of "wheesting for indy" that got the SNP into this mess, and left independence going precisely nowhere.

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

By staying silent and failing to force the SNP to govern better, the base caused this catastrophe. Some tough love might have worked wonders. Instead the party is now a punchline to a sick joke. Similarly, any Yes voter who dares call the party out on its voluminous failings is labelled a "yoon" (heaven help us, these people should be back in primary school), a traitor, a quisling, a … you name it, they have an insult and a conspiracy theory for it. 

There was a time when the SNP’s lapdog army of cybernats and conspiracists played to its favour. That time is long gone. Half of them turned on the SNP as they were in love with Salmond. Those who remain strip what flesh is left from the party’s reputation with their antics. Allow a horror movie fan a cultural reference: they remind me of the trained zombie Bub in George A Romero’s 1985 movie Day of the Dead. Bub is so brainless and obedient, his masters forget he has teeth and can kill – which he does. 

All this is precisely why I said the SNP deserves every agony it’s going through. Party leaders and party base are both as guilty as each other. Hell mend them. They’ve done this country a grave disservice.

They’ve also done independence a grave disservice, setting the campaign back years. The SNP may be a busted flush, but that doesn’t mean independence has to go down in flames with them. My support for independence remains unchanged. Like tens of thousands of Yes voters, my support doesn’t derive from nationalism. I hate nationalism of all stripes: Scottish, English, whatever. I couldn’t care less about flags. You can take the Saltire, the Union Jack and burn them in a field for all I care. Ethnicity is meaningless to me too. I’m Irish, but of the mongrel type, and embrace and love my English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry.

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

I support independence solely on progressive grounds. I want to see a better, fairer society. If Westminster could achieve that, I wouldn’t support independence. But Westminster has proven itself irredeemable, incapable of reform, time and again. Westminster has broken Britain, and it’s not just the Tories to blame either. New Labour helped lay the foundation of this mess we’re in. So as someone who wants to see a more just and equal country, I’ve nowhere left to go but independence. 

Yet here I am – together with thousands like me – looking at the self-destruction of the only real vehicle, at least for now, which can take us to independence. As I’m no fundamentalist, no existential Yes voter, I guess I’ll just have to wait. The SNP, certainly in its current incarnation, won’t be the party to achieve independence.

Rest assured, though, independence remains one of the two poles of Scottish politics. It won’t disappear because the SNP implodes. Half the country won’t simply change their minds. However, there’s a risk that the SNP’s grotesque failures allow other, darker forces to coalesce around independence, which could take Scotland into very troubling waters. That will simply become another reason to damn the SNP for what it’s done.