When Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan trooped into that crowded Murrayfield cavern on Monday afternoon only they, and their nearest and dearest - campaign managers to the fore - knew the result.

The rest of us read it on the faces of the trio. It was so obvious there was scarcely a need for an official announcement (save for those devilishly awkward details contained therein).

The cameras picked out Ms Forbes, looking quietly ecstatic at missing out this time. Not for her the cool detachment of Rishi Sunak on seeing the Tory leadership go to Liz Truss. Ms Forbes had done far better than anyone had expected at the start of the race, and now she had political capital to spend. She also had her husband and baby daughter in the row behind her. (Lovely cardigan action from Naomi, and kudos to young Amal for a perfectly timed high five with dad.)

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I still haven’t worked out why Ash Regan looked so furious. She was properly, stratospherically, narked, but why? Perhaps she saw that dream of a giant independence thermometer slipping away forever. Either that or she was wondering, like the rest of us, why we had endured the chaos of these past six weeks only to end up right back where we started.

That is not quite right. We are in a worse place, stuck with a First Minister with a margin of victory so slim he has been branded a loser in many quarters. Humza Yousaf introduced himself as the luckiest man in the world, but it was a struggle to share his optimism. He was like a man who had won a fabulous mansion in a raffle only to find it was perched on the end of a fast-crumbling cliff. He is going to move in any way - try stopping him - but that does not mean the rest of us need to be dragged along with him.

There was a school of thought, albeit a teeny tiny totey one, that this leadership contest, bruising as it was, would be good for Mr Yousaf. A little humbling never hurt anyone. He had spent the past month and a half hearing how fed up people were with the party’s focus on independence while life in general grew harder every day. And what did he do with that knowledge? He ignored it. He was as tin-eared as only a politics graduate who has never had a real job can be.

In a huddle with the press, moments after leaving the stage, his first commitment was not to tackle the waiting lists for operations or close that still yawning attainment gap, but to demand the powers to hold another referendum. And while doing that, he would launch a bid, at considerable public expense, to resurrect the very gender recognition reform that played a central part in his old boss losing her job. Astounding.

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Observers will say this throwing of red meat to the SNP faithful is just part of the process, a well-established attempt to be seen to be doing something while in reality doing nothing. Mr Yousaf and those advising him must surely realise the jig has long been up on that one. How daft does he think people are?

What lingered in my mind were the 21,000-plus SNP members who had the chance to vote but did not. They looked at the choice before them and thought “none of the above”. All they had to do was press a button or post a letter, but they could not sum up enough enthusiasm to even do that. This should concern both the party hierarchy and the rest of us, lest we slip into the same despairing frame of mind.

Think about it. The next Scottish Parliament elections are three years away at most. We could be stuck with Mr Yousaf for a long time yet. He might confound us all with a raft of new ideas and access to a ministerial talent pool as yet undiscovered.

But it is not looking promising. Trying to demote Ms Forbes to rural affairs secretary was crass. Ditto choosing Shona Robison, first friend to former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as his deputy. He's making enemies and mistakes faster than anyone thought possible, even for a man with his track record. 

At this rate the country could be stuck in a doom loop, with the new First Minister applying the same failed solutions to familiar problems as the old one. What a depressing thought. A stalled Scotland, parked on the hard shoulder awaiting rescue while the rest of the world passes us by. The strain is already showing. In an Ipsos survey published yesterday, half of those polled thought Scotland was going in the wrong direction.

It won’t be like that, it cannot be like that, because human nature and the demands of reality will hopefully not allow it. Regardless of the posing going on in Edinburgh this week, life carries on for the rest of us. Bills to pay, people to be looked after, job to keep, and that’s if we are lucky.

This is not to say we should be passive observers in whatever comes next. Far from it. Like Ms Forbes, we all have political capital in the shape of votes, so let us not spend it at the first shop we come to.

Labour, branch office and HQ, is straining every sinew not to look too delighted by Mr Yousaf’s victory. The party believes it has learned its lesson in Scotland but we shall see. Was Anas Sarwar too quick off the mark yesterday with his open letter to voters? Just a touch.

The move was straight out of the New Labour playbook, complete with a five point pledge that makes the same mistake as Keir Starmer’s in being too wordy and woolly.

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Scottish Labour are hoping Mr Yousaf will do the job for them at the next General Election. Quoting the late Labour leader John Smith in his acceptance speech was an unexpected bonus. “The opportunity to serve our country, [that] is all we ask.” Never mind all those years in government already.

Remember, too, that the dial on independence has not shifted fundamentally. The SNP might choose to eat itself but the idea of independence is not going away. For a sizeable part of the population that is the destination they want to arrive at in their lifetimes. Sometimes it is not a bad idea to have an almighty shake-up and let the pieces fall where they may. The continuity candidate as chief disruptor: weirder things have happened.