By one of the curious coincidences which are all too common in politics, John Swinney was setting out his Scottish governing priorities – just as the speculation grew that the Prime Minister was about to call an election. Mr Swinney gamely pursued his own agenda – but could not help noting, en passant, that decisions elsewhere might bring about political change. Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie got to her feet at Holyrood to declare: “Bring it on.”

In Westminster, the PM duly brought it on – announcing a General Election for July the fourth, at the start of the Scottish school holidays.

However, more broadly, these exchanges at Holyrood reminded us of the Scottish context in this UK General Election. Rishi Sunak’s rhetoric relied upon the politics of fear. He summoned up Covid, Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and “Islamist extremism” in the Middle East. He placed these into the basket of disquiet already occupied by the economy and the cost of living. And he invited people to choose.

Insisting that he had a firm plan – and playing upon a perceived weakness of the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, in suggesting that he would shift with the political wind. But it was intriguing to note that the statement issued by Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, made no mention of Labour whatsoever.

Instead, he exhorted voters to back the Tories to “beat the SNP” and, in so doing, to “end their obsession with independence for good”. By contrast, Labour in Scotland will seek triangulation, depicting the Tories and the SNP as equally inimical to Scottish interests: condemning the Tories over the economy and the SNP over the health service.

And John Swinney? He faces a challenge – not least because he has only just resumed the SNP leadership and immediately faces an almighty political conflict. Humza Yousaf previously declared that Labour was a certainty to win that contest, because the voters of England had turned against the Tories. He argued that people in Scotland were therefore safe to vote SNP – in search of influence at Westminster. A scenario which was, of course, dismissed by rivals.

Will Mr Swinney be more circumspect? Perhaps – but he now has to pursue a twin path. Reviving the SNP’s credibility in devolved government while, simultaneously, fighting to defend Westminster seats against the Tories and a seemingly resurgent Labour Party.

His own stated priorities in government were: eradicating child poverty, growing Scotland’s economy, tackling the climate emergency and improving public services. But he had more than a few anticipatory comments about Westminster governance too – suggesting that austerity, Brexit and previously high inflation had deprived Scotland of valuable funds.

Expect a combination of those two arguments – Scottish Government revised offers and Westminster culpability – to feature in the SNP’s election pitch. The Liberal Democrats are emboldened by a good showing in the English local elections and will hope to translate that into their customary pavement politics in key targets across Scotland. The Greens plan to fight a record number of seats in Scotland at this election, advocating a blend of climate and social justice.

But the underlying issue in Scotland will be, as ever, the question of salience. Are people here in Scotland thinking predominantly about the next government of the United Kingdom? In which case, polls would suggest that they might align behind Labour as best placed to alter the occupancy of Downing Street.

Or, as in past UK elections, are they thinking about the treatment of Scotland, our future governance? In which case, there might be a degree of polarisation between those advocating the Union and those advocating independence, which could sway the outcome. The next few weeks will decide.