JOHN Swinney’s arrival as First Minister captures the zeitgeist. Voters everywhere are desperate for responsible government by sober politicians. In that respect, he and Keir Starmer mirror each other.

The juvenile sneers of "boring" directed at both men show just how detached their opponents are from the disgust most now feel towards showboating politicians with flamboyant, phoney agendas.

Swinney is also a man of admirable personal qualities. The notes he’s hit have been pitch-perfect to many ears.

He’s rejected tribalism, said he’d govern for “everyone in Scotland”, shown a degree of vulnerability when speaking of his personal exhaustion, was honest in his assessment of Holyrood dysfunction, held up his hands admitting his part in polarisation, and promised to focus on what matters: the economy, jobs, the cost of living, the NHS, schools, and child poverty.

The tributes he paid to his wife, who has multiple sclerosis, were the very model of modern manhood: empathetic, emotionally aware, and drained of braggadocio.

However, one can admire an individual’s personal qualities and still doubt their wisdom. For Swinney’s positioning on independence is a trap waiting to spring and destroy his premiership. He could well become Scotland’s shortest-served First Minister unless he changes tack.

He is wedded to Humza Yousaf’s independence strategy. In doing so, he makes himself hostage to an absurd policy.

The word "strategy" has no place attached to the SNP’s childish independence plan. It involves the SNP winning the majority of Scottish seats at the next General Election. This, apparently, would allow the Scottish Government to begin negotiations for either independence or another referendum.

The party’s veteran MP Pete Wishart rightly brands it a “total mess”. There’s so much wrong with this "policy’" First, the SNP will likely face a walloping from Labour. Latest polling shows the party holding just 15 of its 43 seats, with Scottish Labour taking 28.

So Swinney is backing a policy consistently undermined by polling. That’s just the electoral mathematics. The political strategy is worse.

Even if the SNP were to win a majority of seats - which clearly isn’t a majority of votes - are we to imagine that newly-installed Prime Minister Starmer will agree to a referendum which, if he lost, would force him to resign?

If Swinney goes into a General Election on a manifesto pledge that he will win a majority of seats, thereby triggering independence or another referendum, and fails, then he’s done.

He would become a victim of his own orderly style of leadership. How could a man of honour not step down in the event of failing to meet his key electoral promise? Swinney would cease to be a man of honour if he remained in office.

Why would he do this to himself? Why would he do this to Scotland if he thinks he can turn the ship of state around? This egregious scheme seems to undermine everything he represents.


Hatred of the SNP and the left is now at absurd levels of radicalisation

Swinney wanted an election when Tories changed leader, he should face one himself

Humza Yousaf deserves to fall and Scotland deserves an election

Evidently, Swinney may well be banking on reversing polls. He may hope that by the time the General Election comes the chaos that’s engulfed the Scottish Government for quite some time will be waning in memories and those who drifted despondently to Labour will be returning to the SNP.

Well, as our grandmothers told us: "You know what hope did." If Swinney tacks to the right economically, he won’t win back soft independence voters considering voting Labour. If more feuding breaks out in the SNP - and that’s as likely as the sunrise these days - then his claims of stable government are dust. If he fails to break the polarisation in parliament and cannot pass legislation as a minority government, then his promises are hollow.

There are lots of moving parts for Swinney to consider. He does not want a spoke going through his wheel, and his independence strategy is a spoke as big as a tree trunk.

The biggest problem he faces is that in order to keep his indy pledge he needs to maintain the SNP’s hunger for campaigning rather than governing. The public doesn’t want more "hopes and dreams", more politicians distracted by imagined utopias.

The public want some jam on the bread. Nor will more indy campaigning be a mark of a politician governing for "everyone in Scotland’" it would simply further the nation’s divide.

Labour should be cringing at their role in dethroning Humza Yousaf and helping crown Swinney. With Yousaf in power the General Election would have been a much easier battle.

Swinney presents real challenges to Labour. But his indy strategy gives solace to Anas Sarwar. It’s not just a fracture point for Swinney, but a possible trigger for his own resignation.

Swinney’s fall would usher in more chaos inside the SNP ahead of the Holyrood election, playing straight into Labour’s hands.

The Herald: Will John Swinney dump Humza Yousaf's independence plan?Will John Swinney dump Humza Yousaf's independence plan? (Image: PA)

SNP supporters can only hope that Swinney - as a now very busy man - is simply using Yousaf’s old strategy as a holding pattern, and will soon dump it.

He has acknowledged independence isn’t “frustratingly close” as Yousaf said while resigning. So his commitment to his predecessor’s independence policy is bizarre.

Independence - which I support - remains distant. The SNP hasn’t done the work to improve what independence means since 2014.

The party should have governed its way to independence by preforming so well the public could see the benefits of Scotland striking out alone. Instead, nationalists governed miserably. Independence support hasn’t shifted since 2014.

Swinney should say that independence is off the table until his party raises support to 60% over a prolonged period. When that happens, he can confront the UK Government in a showdown for the right to a referendum with the people of Scotland behind him.

Dumping the current absurd indy plan would allow Swinney to go into an election, he may very well lose, with the ability to survive defeat. He would be able to say that he’d done his best against a backdrop of chaos, without being honour-bound to resign over the independence plan.

If Swinney cannot see this, then he’s not the man of clear-sighted intelligence Scotland needs right now.

He has vowed he’ll be no “interim leader”. However, this dismal independence strategy is the very policy to ensure that he is remembered by the one word he rejects: ‘caretaker’.