This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

You've got to feel some pity for Humza Yousaf.

He’s not a bad guy. His heart seems in the right place. But he came to power at the fag-end of two long-running governments in London and Edinburgh – and voters are sick of both. The appetite for political change in Scotland and the rest of Britain is palpable.

Both the SNP and Conservatives have had their run. If current general election polling is correct, then Labour will dispatch Rishi Sunak’s Tories and cripple Yousaf’s SNP. Since last October, the political weather has changed, with polls becoming broadly tied between SNP and Labour.

However, a huge UK-wide poll by YouGov has just emerged. It promises pain for the SNP. In Scotland, Labour would take 28 seats to the SNP’s 19. That’s a thumping defeat on any terms, but it’s catastrophic to the SNP’s independence strategy.

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The party’s rather dumb plan is this: winning a majority at the general election – that’s 29 seats – provides a mandate for indyref2, and the SNP would seek powers to stage another vote.

Across Britain as a whole, the YouGov poll shows Labour sweeping to power on 403 MPs, with Conservatives gutted on just 155. So it’s a Tory wipeout nationwide, and the SNP hobbled in Scotland.

Hopes of indyref2 are over, and despair within the Yes movement will only be compounded if the SNP gets similarly thrashed at the next Holyrood election and Labour takes power in Edinburgh.

The Yes movement isn’t prepared for what’s coming. This will be its biggest ever defeat. Evidently, Yes lost the 2014 referendum, but Better Together’s win was pyrrhic: the SNP reaped the electoral dividend and there was a huge influx of new members.

This time, defeat will have no rosy afterglow. If the general election unfolds as polls seem to predict, then Yousaf could well be on his way out as leader.

The Yes camp will be in utter disarray. It will be a huge psychological shock. Prepare for much backstabbing, blame-gaming and recrimination.

The Herald:
If Keir Starmer fares well in office, then the Yes camp is in even more trouble as support for independence is greatly dependent on events in London. Put crudely, the worse Westminster behaves, the more the Yes vote grows.

A real existential threat is opening up now and nobody in the Yes movement is talking about it. Well, nobody but Cassandras like me. I’m a moderate if outspoken independence supporter and it looks like the writing is on the wall.

This has all been of the SNP and Yes movement’s own making. Bad governance by the SNP has deterred floating voters and soft Yessers.

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Meanwhile, the wider Yes movement has performed the craziest mental gymnastics in an effort to pretend that the Labour vote isn’t growing, and now eclipsing, their preferred political vehicle.

‘Nobody would ever vote Red Tory’ is the cry. That might work as a comfort blanket, but it cuts no ice in the real world with voters who think the comparison is frankly absurd. 

Yessers have behaved like King Canute, in the face of Labour’s rising tide, and now the sea is about to sweep over the movement.

Read Neil Mackay every Friday in the Unspun newsletter.

The independence camp has simply stagnated. Once the blow is landed and the SNP left bloodied, the recovery process must involve one key change: the leadership of the Yes campaign can no longer be left to the mercies of a political party.

When – and it will be when – the Yes movement regroups, leadership must come from within civic society, not a self-interested political party which ties the fate of independence to its own electoral fortunes.