THE SNP is a basket case. This we know. Legal matters aside, Scotland’s national conversation must move forward, beyond the desire to point and laugh or stare in horror at the party’s self-inflicted ruin. The fate of Scotland demands that we turn our attention to the future, and who wields power in this country. The fortunes of one terminally rotten party are meaningless compared to the fate of a nation locked in the embrace of a ruined government.

Nationalists once spent every waking hour declaring ‘indy is coming’. The SNP was always somewhat ‘cult-like’, so inevitably, like those sects dreaming of End Times, the promised land never materialised. But cult leaders are rather good at revising their calendars.

The Rapture may have been due last Thursday lunchtime, but when that date comes and goes, Cult Daddies just kick the timing forward a few years so the suckers carry on believing (and Carry On Believing could be the title of the SNP’s biopic).

The prophets of nationalism still stand on the windswept hills of their imaginations, shouting at the heavens that independence approacheth. But who believes that anymore, except the serially deluded ultra-partisan?

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Analysis of what this all means is fairly weak in the media. The commentariat is locked in a clickbait cycle of who can slag off the SNP more; it’s an arms race to see what new sneer can be hurled. Great. I get it. Knock yourselves out. But it takes us nowhere. The question we should be asking isn’t ‘what new word can I find in my thesaurus to insult the SNP’, but ‘what next for Scotland?’ Can the SNP hold onto power? Can Labour overtake them?

These are the issues. The answers lie in that large swathe of the electorate known as the Scottish left. Labour lost Scotland’s left after the Iraq War. Voters migrated to the SNP gifting Alex Salmond his first government.

Today, though, the left has started moving away from the SNP. As the Lord of Polling, John Curtice, says, it’s “Labour who primarily have profited from the fall in SNP support among Yes supporters”.

Around 18% of Yes supporters would now vote Labour. So left-wing soft-Yessers are returning to their former home. Currently, the shift isn’t enough to finish the SNP, but it’s enough to terrorise the party.

The heart of the conundrum is this: will enough leftie soft Yessers park support of independence to vote in Labour at the next general election to kick the Conservatives out?

However, this matter isn’t easily resolvable. Psychotherapists often talk about the agony of ‘the double bind’ – which is what the soft-Yes-Scottish-left now faces.

The Herald: Humza YousafHumza Yousaf (Image: free)

A Double Bind occurs when someone is faced with two psychologically conflicting demands. Both need resolved, however successfully resolving one causes all hopes of the other to fail. In other words: if I do X, then I must forget about Y even though I really want Y to happen; but if I do Y, then all hopes of X end, even though I also really want X to happen.

Here sits the soft-Yes Scottish leftie. They want independence, but they also want Conservatives beaten. If they back the SNP, they shore up hopes of independence. However, they also know there’s little chance of independence happening, and that voting SNP could prevent Labour ending Conservative rule. Alternatively, if they vote Labour they’ll probably get the Tories out, but they’ll damage independence. Psychologically, that’s difficult to metabolise.

Brexit complicates matters. Keir Starmer’s Brexit embrace revolts many of those soft-Yes Scottish lefties. Which will they prefer: the cup of vomit that must be drunk by voting for a Brexit-supporting Starmer to finish Tory rule? Or the cup of vomit that must be drunk if they vote for the SNP and potentially return Conservatives to power, despite hopes of independence at an all time low?

This puts terrible weight on Anas Sarwar. Can he find a route through this minefield, charting a course different enough to Starmer’s unappetising proposition? He must if he’s to create sufficient space for soft-Yes Scottish lefties to hold their noses and vote for him.

Labour once again has a viable potential First Minister is Sarwar. Though that’s mostly down to the SNP’s self-cannibalisation. The drag on Sarwar is Starmer. Sarwar must be utterly distraught when someone like John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former political adviser, says “Thatcherites are safe to come home to the Labour Party” thanks to Starmer.

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The push-pull factors on the soft-Yes Scottish left, when it comes to the SNP and Labour, are too entangled to make their likely destination easy to call. But this is sure: Starmer may believe his path to power lies through Scotland, but he’s putting up every road block imaginable to prevent Sarwar seeing the inside of Bute House.

Clearly, there’s another element to Scotland’s leftwing equation: the Greens. Lets safely assume few lefties who moved from Labour to the SNP are disposed to give their vote to Salmond’s Alba. But might they drift greenwards?

There’s a chance, of course. Most lefties care about the environment, and will have sympathy for a lot of Green positions. But the Greens are still too small. They are smeared with the ordure of the SNP. More importantly, voting Green will do little to get the Tories out, especially if it’s becoming an accepted political truth that independence is off the cards for many years to come.

Evidently, the new First Minister Humza Yousaf could try to keep the left onboard. However, he has more woes to contend with than the political truism that split parties don’t attract voters. His biggest concern is the fundamental wound that was opened up by the leadership contest. It showed the Scottish left that the SNP was anything but left.

Yes, Yousaf may indeed be progressive. There’s no cause to doubt him. But behind him there’s a party filled with supporters of Kate Forbes and Ash Regan. He won by a pretty slim margin. That was the haemorrhage point for the left: they saw what the party really was, felt conned and began to look elsewhere. Now they are homeless and whoever can offer them shelter will find power is their reward.