If you’re feeling benevolent, you could perhaps say that like all battle-hardened veterans of a certain age who’ve earned their stripes, the SNP is sometimes guilty of wallowing in nostalgia over past glories.

If you’re feeling uncharitable, however, maybe you’d say that the party is trapped in the past - specifically 2014 - and incapable of moving forward, despite cycling through three leaders in the intervening years.

Humza Yousaf and his team are trying to have conversations with the electorate which few voters want to engage with right now. The SNP’s leadership is fixated on independence. Most of Scotland is thinking about the cost of living.

It’s dangerous disengagement, and the reason the SNP is sliding towards defeat at the general election.

Labour - despite its lack of policy ambition - at least talks about the same issues most of us are worrying over at the dinner table.

Despite sustained support for independence, it’s a matter fewer are now considering a priority. Only one in five say independence will determine their vote. That’s not a number to rest electoral fortunes upon. Two-thirds see the economy as the decisive factor.

Scottish Labour is talking up its New Deal for Working People. It’ll end zero hours contracts, repeal anti-strike laws, expand sick pay and employment rights, and halt fire-and-rehire. Sure, Peter Mandelson crept out of his crypt to talk it down, but the party pretty much rebuffed him.

Clearly, anyone hoping Keir Starmer will deliver a socialist utopia is either high or daft, but Labour is offering an economic alternative to 14 years of Tory ruin. People are listening to that, and responding positively.

Since last October, following the SNP’s Rutherglen by-election defeat, Labour has been creeping up on Humza Yousaf. The lead in polls since then is split roughly 50-50 between the SNP and Labour. Sometimes the two parties tie, as in the latest poll with both on 34%. But the trajectory is clear.

When Yousaf became leader, the SNP was 10 points ahead. This isn’t all on Yousaf, though. He inherited pandemonium. Nicola Sturgeon created a fall guy.

Since he took power, the party has been in chaos. Every policy turns to ash - though much of the fire aimed at the Scottish Government has, in truth, been driven by disinformation of the worst kind by politicians from all parties, including the SNP.

The blame game is for the history books, however. Right now, any sane party is focused on winning the next election. Yousaf seems to be doing everything he can to lose.

Not only is the political landscape on fire all around him, but he’s happily wandering into the flames. Yousaf has made clear that this election is for him all about independence. An SNP win would, according to the party, trigger negotiations over independence.

There’s so much wrong with this thinking. First, it’s for voters to decide what matters in an election, not Yousaf.


Warring SNP and Greens will tear the Yes movement to bits

SNP and Yes movement are not prepared for the crushing blow ahead

Will Humza Yousaf ever tire of gaslighting Scotland over our housing crisis?

Then we come to independence. That’s a problem in itself. I no longer know what the SNP means when it talks about independence - and I’m a Yes voter. The notion hasn’t changed, really, since 2014. Spoiler alert: No won.

Then, evidently, there’s the fact that the SNP may well lose this election. If you’re facing defeat, don’t use your key policy as a Hail Mary.

Next: why would newly-incumbent Keir Starmer agree to any referendum which, if he lost, would force his resignation, despite winning a likely thumping majority?

More importantly, though - as ordinary voters’ concerns have far greater relevance than the hopes and dreams of mere politicians - this focus on independence isn’t where the public’s mind is at. Yousaf seems blithely out of synch.

Labour is talking to the people, while the SNP is having an incestuous conversation with itself.

When Yousaf recently posted online about the General Election, he gave three reasons why voters should back the SNP. The first? “Advance the cause of independence”. Then came getting rid of Tory MPs in Scotland. Third was: “Ensure Scotland’s voice is heard”. He signed off: “If you believe in independence vote SNP”.

Nothing about the cost of living.

His mantra of making Scotland "Tory free" could just as easily persuade voters to back Labour. Which party, after all, is going to boot out the Conservatives? Not the SNP.

Symbolism matters. Where will Humza Yousaf be this weekend? Speaking at an independence rally in Glasgow. Yes, he’s also spoken at the STUC conference this week. But when children are going hungry, voters - including independence-supporting ones like me - will be wondering why time is being wasted on a notion that’s currently going nowhere.

To compound the dodgy optics, the Yes movement is currently engaged in another bout of ritual backstabbing, over this very rally. The Greens won’t share a platform with Alba. Everybody appears to have got their Saltire-patterned panties in a twist.

But who cares? Do hungry mothers surviving on the scraps from their kid’s dinner plate give two damns? For that’s what’s happening in Scotland - just speak to our poverty campaigners. I have, and their stories would make you weep.

If SNP "strategists" had any sense, they’d park independence until after the election. Independence is doing just fine without the SNP. For many, support for independence has long decoupled from support for the SNP.

That’s clearly why the party is so worried and now endlessly talking up independence. Yet the irony is, by doing so it alienates moderate indy voters who want to hear about the economy.

The Herald: Labour is heading for victory under the leadership of Keir Starmer and Anas SarwarLabour is heading for victory under the leadership of Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar (Image: PA)

The SNP would be advised to ride on Labour’s coat tails. Starmer’s New Deal is attractive. Much of it centres on employment policy. The SNP wants employment law devolved.

If there was anyone with strategic nous left in the SNP, they’d weave these two issues together. The SNP’s strength lies in ameliorating, off-setting or improving what happens at Westminster.

It wouldn’t be hard to say "look, this New Deal idea is all well and good, but if employment law was devolved to Scotland, here’s what we’d do for citizens’"

It’s not as if the SNP lacks intelligent folk with ideas about improving the lives of voters, it’s just that they seem to care more about fantasy futures than the hard shape of the here and now. That way defeat lies.