THERE’S a classic recurring scene in those old adventure movies from the 1930s where some damn decent chap in a pith helmet is hacking his way through jungle and the camera cuts, revealing that unbeknownst to our explorer there’s quicksand underfoot. Any moment, he’ll sink slowly up to his chiseled chin in the sticky stuff. If only he’d had the foresight to look where he was going, he wouldn’t be about to face this fate worse than death: tortuously drowning inch by dreadful inch in a morass from which there is no escape.

Hello Scotland! Does that image chime with you? Politically, this country is drowning in quicksand. We’re sinking. We are not going forward. We’re experiencing a kind of political perma-death. We’re pickling ourselves, preserving ourselves in aspic; trapped in a political landscape as fixed as a still life painting.

Nothing changes. The SNP may be badly wounded but it remains strong enough to hold onto power. Support for independence doesn’t really change, regardless of SNP fortunes; support for the Union doesn’t really change, regardless of Labour or Tory fortunes.

If nationalists hope the SNP can make a clean slate, well good luck. That would depend entirely on wise, steady government, something the SNP has shown itself consistently incapable of for years. Yes, the party could once boast achievements which mattered, but those days are over. Just look at the trashing of Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy by the Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson. He said Ms Sturgeon had “absolutely failed” young people.

Read more: Ex-Yes Scotland director: SNP trashed us - that's why we lost in 2014

Ms Sturgeon resigned claiming she was proud of her record for young people. She can be proud of the Scottish Child Payment, which provides more support for poor families than in the rest of Britain, but that wasn’t enough. Mr Adamson was right to highlight how issues like pandemic exacerbated child poverty – so Ms Sturgeon has some mitigation, as do allother government leaders. But, once again, his comments make clear that the SNP did far too little with the powers available.

And if Labour supporters – or unionists in general – think Sir Keir Starmer will break Scotland’s stasis, then they better wake up. To retake Scotland, Labour must appeal to all those left-wing soft Yes voters who backed independence in 2014. Even if Sir Keir wasn’t hugging Brexit as close as Lennie hugs rabbits in Of Mice and Men, even if he took a more amelioratory approach to independence, rather than sneer at the aspirations of nearly half of the population, there’s little chance of the party making meaningful headway in Scotland.

For a while, it seemed that with the SNP smeared in its own effluent, Sir Keir and Anas Sarwar could break Scotland’s deadlock. After all, Labour had whooshed past a thoroughly-rotten Tory Party in England in the polls. But there’s no chance of that now. Sir Keir is killing everything that’s left-wing about Labour, breaking progressive pledges as if honour means nothing, and morphing into just as rotten a liar as his Tory opponents.

He committed to scrapping tuition fees in England, now he’s backtracked disgracefully. Where’s the leftie who would switch from the SNP, with its promise of "no tuition fees ever", to Labour, now that Sir Keir presents a risk of the possible reintroduction of tuition fees in Scotland?

He won’t reverse the thoroughly dangerous, undemocratic Tory anti-protest legislation. He’s says he doesn’t care if people think he’s Tory, and promises New Labour “on steroids”. In Scotland, that’s political poison.

This is a nil-nil draw in terms of political change for Scotland. The SNP is peeled back to its minimum support, but that support remains enough to cling on to power thanks to the "divide and conquer" nature of our constitutional divide. And Labour has utterly blown it when it comes to making inroads into Scotland sufficient to unthrone the SNP. In England, there’s little alternative to Labour for voters who want rid of the Tories. In Scotland, there’s the SNP’s progressive fig leaf.

So our political conversation will remain dominated by partisan flat-heads. On one side: the "get indy done" brigade. Though just replace "indy" with ‘Brexit’ in that phrase, and it’s clear there’s no difference in mindless constitutional obsessives whether they dress in Tory blue or SNP yellow.

On the other side: the "devolution has gone too far" brigade; the Tory faux hard cases who have nowhere to go in terms of ideas or policy but to attack the bedrock of Scottish democracy.

Read more: Neil Mackay: Brexit may be key for SNP to keep Labour at bay

Poor old Scotland, that’s all that can be said.

There is one last-ditch solution out there, though. A growing number of respected voices are saying that independence should be decoupled not just from the SNP, but from all political parties. One former director of Yes Scotland, Ian Dommett, told me last week that this was the only way to break Scotland’s political division and deadlock. Remove politics from the constitutional question – make it a civic and social debate – and the nation might start to move forward. His comments were backed by another ex-Yes Scotland director, Stan Blackley. There’s plenty of folk who now support this idea. Take self-serving politicians out of the equation, and let’s have an honest debate about what the future of Scotland could be without parties trying to exploit us at every opportunity.

If we drew the political pus from the constitutional debate, then the SNP would have to govern by policy alone. The party would have to show its fitness to rule with ideas beyond the purely constitutional. Labour and the Tories would have to show what they could do for the people of Scotland, not what they are prepared to do to keep Scotland in the Union.

The sheer awful tragedy for Scotland is that this will never happen. Tories and nationalists know the constitution is the only life-raft they’ll ever have. They’ll no more let it go than a drowning man would release a piece of driftwood. And Labour is frankly too stupid to realise that if it could free itself from the constitutional trap the SNP laid for it, the party might once again have a chance to wield power in Scotland.

Meanwhile, we voters sink ever deeper into the quicksand. Up to our chin, our noses, our eyes. Then what?