WHERE to begin this week, after the latest episode in what might, to borrow a colourful expression from Elon Musk, as the "rapid unscheduled disassembly" of Scotland's governing party?

The schadenfreude generated amongst the SNP's rivals at Holyrood is understandable in such febrile times. There's disbelief - to say nothing of scorn and glee - that a once-invincible party, an astute vote-getting machine that sought to lead Scots to the promised land of independence, should have imploded so decisively and swiftly. Opponents who remember Nicola Sturgeon's lofty attitude on certain issues are enjoying their moment.

More crucially, Lord Frost, an unelected senior Conservative peer (and, lest we forget, the minister of state who oversaw Brexit) has provocatively detected in the SNP's self-inflicted travails a huge political opportunity for London to reverse the devolution process in order, he says, to make up for the mis-steps in recent years in Scotland. Devolution, he argues, has led to closed-shop fiefdoms and effective one-party states in Scotland and Wales (a "seriously dangerous one" in the case of the former). Scotland does not need to be an independent actor on the world stage.

Scottish Tories have been swift to reject his call for a wholesale reversal, believing instead that devolution has allowed them to highlight the SNP's failures. They are right to dismiss Frost's mischief-making. Devolution cannot be permitted to be rolled back. The vast majority of Scots embraced the creation of a parliament at Holyrood and would oppose any move by a London government it has little time for to strip it off its powers.

Still, it is worth asking what sort of government we are in line for in Scotland. The SNP's problems will pass, in time, and as Professor Sir John Curtice has noted, the party is far from being in an electoral meltdown despite its support being dented by the bruising leadership contest and the turmoil over alleged financial irregularities.

In his big speech last week Humza Yousaf trailed several ideas - convening a cross-party summit on poverty, delaying the controversial Deposit Return Scheme for seven months, launching a six-month pilot to ban peak-time rail fares, committing to pay adult social care workers £12 an hour, and pledging a new deal for councils, all of which were overdue. But where was the compelling, over-arching message? Why didn't he decisively seize the opportunity to scrap the deposit scheme altogether? Merely delaying it will do nothing to ease the suspicion that the SNP has a certain lack of nous when it comes to a business community that has long been suspicious of the party.

Where do the Greens fit in? Yousaf has rowed back on the deposit scheme and on contentious plans to ban fishing in 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas, but many in the SNP are uneasy about the continued presence of the Greens, who wield power out of all proportion to their seven-MSP representation. The coalition cannot easily be unstitched but the fact remains that there are those in the SNP who would rather be free of Slater, Harvie and co.

What will the Humza government look like? Will it increase tax levels and launch more progressive policies, or will it shift to the centre? Some unambiguous direction would be welcome. As we have said before, it's imperative that he concentrate on the bedrock issues - the economy, education, the health service - that affect people's lives, at the expense of those peripheral issues that really don't.

Meanwhile, what of independence? Support for it seems to have largely been unaffected by the dramas of recent weeks. But does the SNP remain Yes voters' best hope of actually achieving it? More than a few Yes activists are openly disillusioned with what they see as the party whipping up enthusiasm for the cause, year after year, and then failing to deliver.

The party potentially faces a challenging general election campaign next year should it coincide with any fraud trials resulting from current matters. Political opponents would have a field day with these; and there are already pessimists within the SNP's ranks who fear that it could cede as many as 20 Scottish seats to Labour. Such an unravelling would diminish the SNP and tarnish its reputation as a serious political force, capable of delivering. A new poll finds that just two-thirds of Yes voters in 2014 would vote for the SNP in a Westminster election, down from three-quarters in January.

What do Yes activists do now? Stick with the SNP in the belief that it can regain its voice, its confidence and its sense of unity and purpose, and launch a fresh drive for independence? Or do they drift towards parties such as Alba and a national convention on independence? Or do they pin hopes on Labour pledging a referendum in an attempt to win over pro-independence voters? It's a difficult choice. Whatever the options, the indy promise held out in the title of Alex Salmond's memoir, The Dream Will Never Die, has now receded impossibly far into the distance.