Asked which issue is most important to them when casting their vote few, if any, Scots would say the cost of building ferries.

Fewer still would mention bottle deposit arrangements, their right to use wood burners or the availability of puberty blockers for teenagers. None of these would be in the top ten important influences on most voters, I’d guess.

The relentless focus on issues such as these by political opponents and commentators may have the opposite effect of that intended, playing into the hands of the SNP and, at least in part, explaining the party’s gravity-defying position in the polls.

For despite an abject record in office and a succession of scandals and public relations disasters for the party and government, it has achieved a remarkable level of resilience.

The Herald: Ferry costs occupy much media attentionFerry costs occupy much media attention (Image: free)

The stratospheric levels of support for Labour in England, indicated in polls, are not replicated north of the border, and some even suggest the SNP could yet win the highest number of Scottish seats at the forthcoming General Election.

Last week’s U-turn by ministers over their target of cutting carbon emissions by 75% by 2030, was notable for the heat it generated on a major policy issue of importance to, and impacting the lives of, a considerable number of people.

While the leadership of the Scottish Greens is putting a brave face on the catastrophe, it could yet lead to the collapse of its power sharing coalition with the nationalists.

That would leave the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, limping towards the next Scottish Parliament election in 25 months’ time as the embattled leader of a minority administration.

But predictions of the imminent political demise of Mr Yousaf and the SNP may be premature.

There are several reasons for this, chief among them the tribal, hegemonic, and often counterintuitive way in which Scotland votes.

While there is plenty that could still go wrong between now and May 2026 – including the possibility of a criminal trial involving Peter Murrell, the SNP’s former chief executive and husband of former first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on charges of embezzlement of party funds – it remains to be seen whether anything will shift the electoral dial enough to unseat the SNP.

Despite the many abject failings of this government on important policies issues such as health, education, and taxation, none of it appears to have put a tectonic plate shifting dent in the nationalists’ popularity.

A YouGov survey published earlier this month revealed Labour only just overtaken the SNP for the first time since the immediate aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum.


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The poll suggested that a general election now would leave Labour in Scotland with 28 seats - up from the one it secured in 2019 - and 10 seats ahead of the SNP.

A Survation poll published last month suggested, that if a General Election were held then, the SNP would hold onto 41 of the 47 seats it currently holds at Westminster.

The YouGov poll was conducted before news of the party’s ditching of its climate change target were leaked, and before the arrest and charge of Mr Murrell last week, which may or may not impact on voting intentions.

The party’s apparent resilience in support is in spite, rather than because, of, its record in government, which leaves much to be desired.

In areas under its full control, such as healthcare and education, the outcomes are far from satisfactory. One in seven Scots remains on an NHS waiting list. In education, despite Ms Sturgeon's pledge to bridge the gap between affluent and disadvantaged students, the divide has widened, forcing the abandonment of targets.

Scotland's education system, once lauded as among the best globally, has faltered under the nationalists’ leadership. The recent Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) report, released last December, painted a troubling picture with declining results in science and math indicating a significant regression, equivalent to two years' worth of missed lessons.

In higher education, the policy of free university tuition appears to have had the reverse effect, impeding access for economically challenged students due to limited funded spots.

In addition, ministers have been criticised over Scotland’s appalling rates of preventable deaths from drug misuse, surpassing not only other UK nations but also European counterparts.

Attempts to blame UK-wide drug laws hold little sway, given the lower fatality rates in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland under the same regulations.

There is also the issue of the unpopularity of Mr Yousaf, who has enjoyed consistently low approval ratings since he succeeded Ms Sturgeon last year.

The Herald: Scots drug deaths are the highest in UKScots drug deaths are the highest in UK (Image: free)

Reports have circulated recently about the legal troubles of Ramsay El-Nakla, the First Minister’s brother-in-law, who faces charges of abduction and extortion.

Too often however, serious policy failures and the fact that Scots are the most heavily taxed group in the UK, play second fiddle to marginal, some might even say comparatively trivial, issues.

To borrow a sporting metaphor, you can only play the team that’s in front of you, and the range of powers available to ministers, and the issues they can influence, are constrained by the limitations of devolution.

However, the amount of attention paid to the over-budget Glen Rosa ferry is out of proportion to its importance. The Hate Crime Act dominated media coverage for a few days before the number of reports to the police dwindled and sanity prevailed.

The Gender Recognition Bill appears to be dead and buried and even the collapse of the coalition may yet benefit the SNP, freeing it of its obligations to pursue the Greens’ fetish for bans and unattainable targets.

None of these issues will decide elections and persistently focusing on them serves only to let the SNP off the hook on more critical issues for which it should be held accountable.

Voters in Scotland tend to be excessively loyal to one party on a generational basis, more so than in other parts of the UK, and often against their own interests.

It will take more than a late, overpriced ferry and a few missed targets to get them to change their minds but, when they do, it will be permanent.

Carlos Alba ran the media campaign for Ken MacIntosh’s bid to become Scottish Labour leader against Kezia Dugdale