Hypotheticals are the stuff of politics. They are what every one of us has to consider as we prepare to cast our vote ahead of any election or referendum. What happens if? It’s important to know. Or think you know.

Politicians enthusiastically raise hypothetical situations when it suits their arguments and refuse to engage in them, when it doesn’t. Frustratingly.

Last weekend in the hallowed surroundings of Westminster Abbey, two opposition protagonists, Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey, were spotted, between political prayers perhaps, chatting softly as the King prepared for his big moment.

Lip-readers were employed to decipher what the exasperated Monarch was mouthing as he waited impatiently outside in his golden carriage but perhaps they should have been better employed to work out what the political knights were talking about. The c-word – coalition, that is – looks as though it might have passed their lips.

Later, Sir Ed’s attempt to avoid answering the question about a possible post-election Lib-Lab tie-up was comical enough; two years ago he told me earnestly of how his party could join Labour in an “anti-Tory progressive alliance”.

Yet when it came to Sir Keir’s turn to dodge questions about the possibility of a pact with the yellow peril, laughter was hard to suppress.

The Labour leader ruled out a nationalist-socialist deal – thank heavens, it would sound historically awkward, to put it mildly – because of the SNP’s desire to break up Britain, but then he became coy when the Liberal Democrats were mentioned.

“I’m not answering hypotheticals,” he snapped. But he just had in relation to the Nats. So, by not answering regards Sir Ed’s merry band, the chief comrade had effectively given an answer.

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With at least a year to the next General Election, talk of pacts, deals and coalitions is likely to increase, so that the campaign will, as always, be predicated on a medley of hypotheticals.

Indeed on the back of last week’s English council results, everyone has been piling in – some more convincingly than others – about what might happen after polling day 2024 if no party gets an outright majority.

The SNP couldn’t resist adding its contribution. Stephen Flynn, its Westminster leader, admitted to being excited by the shift away from the Tories in England and claimed that a minority Labour administration would afford his party the “very real opportunity of holding the balance of power at Westminster”.

He even named his price for propping up a Starmer government: rolling back Brexit; prioritising the cost of living crisis and empowering Holyrood to stage Indyref2.

When it was suggested that Sir Keir had categorically ruled out any deal with the SNP, Mr Flynn pointed out how the Labour leader had broken many promises and would do so again to enter Number 10.

“He isn’t going to walk away from becoming prime minister simply to deny many of our asks,” added the Aberdeen South MP.

But if one were of a cynical mind, one might think Mr Flynn, Humza Yousaf and other members of the SNP hierarchy were playing a canny game.

Importantly, Labour will put in its election manifesto – ditto the Tories and LibDems – that it will not sanction a second independence referendum. Whoever forms the government will, therefore, say they have a UK-wide mandate to fulfil that promise.

If Sir Keir did lead a minority government, he could simply dare the nationalists to join the Tories in the voting lobby to oppose “progressive” Labour measures and face the consequences. The memory of the 1979 no-confidence vote that ended the minority Callaghan administration and led to the Thatcher Government would be invoked.

And given the SNP’s primary goal is to achieve Scottish independence, one asks: which party would it prefer running Whitehall to maximise the chances of getting sustained majority support in the opinion polls for independence? The Conservatives, naturally.

To this end, Nationalist HQ knows full well that raising the prospect of a Lab-SNP pact after the election will scare voters in Middle England as it did so successfully at the 2015 election, which saw David Cameron beat Ed Miliband to the premiership.

Who could forget the billboards, carrying the picture of a rabbit-like Mr M in the top pocket of Alex Salmond and then Nicola Sturgeon? Expect the idea to be resurrected by Tory HQ next year with Sir Keir in Mr Yousaf’s pocket.

So, it’s likely the SNP’s campaign strategy will be to continue to target its attacks heavily on the “Tory-lite” Brexit-loving Labour Party while, simultaneously saying that if there were a hung parliament, it would be willing to do a deal with Sir Keir and his comrades to secure Indyref2, get more powers for Holyrood and, at the very least, see the UK back in the European single market.

Amid all the coalition talk, journalists asked Downing Street if the PM, having condemned Labour for being “busy plotting coalitions,” would rule one out for the Conservatives. A spokeswoman offered a non-denial denial by saying that she wasn’t “at this stage” going to speculate on the election result.

Read more: Yousaf’s key challenge isn't securing Indyref2 but keeping SNP united

Then, we really did enter the Twilight Zone when Scottish Labour champion Ian Murray responded with a quite preposterous proposition. “Rishi Sunak’s refusal to rule out a grubby deal with the SNP is a sign of his desperation to cling to power.” A Con-Nat alliance? Now I’ve heard everything.

Later, mercifully, Tory HQ, having reflected, issued a brief clarification, saying: “We will not be doing a deal with any other party.”

If there were a hung parliament after the UK election, then, it seems – on all we know at present and with some way to go – that some sort of Lib-Lab arrangement would most probably transpire and, depending on the numbers, would either be a full-blown coalition or a confidence-and-supply agreement.

But it would then lead to the bitterest of Holyrood battles at the 2026 Scottish poll as a revived Labour Party and a beleaguered SNP fought frantically for power in Edinburgh. Hypothetically speaking, of course.