WHEN the UK Labour Party won a stunning victory in 1997 it was a moment to be bold and radical given the cushion of its majority and the state of its opponents. Instead it announced that for at least the first two years of government it would conform to Tory budgeting.

It may have given the odd banker a ­better night’s sleep, but many of its grassroots ­supporters were like nauseous parrots. Was this the brave new world they’d voted for?

The SNP would do well to reflect on this. The still astonishing collapse of ­Scottish Labour in 2015 teaches us that politicians are never more vulnerable than when they make the mistake of supposing they’re ­infallible and impregnable. It would ­therefore be hubristic folly not to examine the turmoil in some of its ranks.

To accept that critical friends are just that.

As ever, sunlight is the most efficient ­disinfectant. The party got hauled down a rabbit hole of its own making when it failed to acknowledge the mistakes which led to a judicial review and, ultimately, the whole Salmond brouhaha. It was hardly an ­edifying moment in Scottish politics, though some of its architects seem content to remain in post.

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The SNP can avoid another own goal by making public those aspects of its finances which have caused high-profile resignations, and fed a raft of bloggers. A cover up is always worse than an admission of ­missteps.

For it’s not just auditors who need to be kept happy and comforted, it’s their membership. A membership which is losing loyalists week on week principally because they feel bypassed; they wonder where ­party democracy went for its staycation. And, as I’ve argued before, they are ­unhappy with a party whose leadership dwells in an echo chamber rather than switching to listening mode.

Then there are some toxic swamps which need drained. I look forward to reading the responses to the consultation on GRA ­reforms. For this is a debate where the loudest voices have been allowed to silence honest dissent. A confident party, and a confident nation can cope with differences of opinion; screeching putdowns are something else.

Which brings me to the state of Alba play.

It may be that many of the indy folk who migrated to the new party are feeling battered and bruised by the May 6 results. The mature response to which is to ask themselves why their message failed, not to lash out at the party they decided to leave. They are, after all, allegedly on journeys to the same destination. I saw one Alba keyboard warrior refer to “the enemy camp” this week. Get a bloody grip!

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They also are having to deal with the latest offering from Kenny MacAskill, the Alba MP who decided to go back to the future with a column suggesting Home Rule as useful means of loosening the constitutional log jam. The kindest thing I can say about this is it a road well travelled by many Unionist pilgrims leading to nowhere of any consequence.

Devo Max has long since been replaced by Devo Minimus, as the Internal Market Act strips even the pre-existing powers from the devolved settlements. The idea that a UK Government currently hell bent on taking down devolution brick by brick and bribe by bribe is suddenly going to have a Damascene conversion to a proper and respectful partnership of equals is strictly for the feathered friends.

Yet just as it is entirely counter productive for the Albanites to bait and batter the SNP, it ill behoves SNP members to feed the kind of intra party feuding which only comforts Unionists and hostile ­commentators.

Meanwhile the very large mammal in the room remains the lack of a visible start to a referendum campaign, and the lack of a visible SNP appetite to do the hard research yards necessary before the next vote.

That work has been left to pro Indy groups like Common Weal and Believe in Scotland, who have published materials with which the Scottish government may nor may not concur. It would be awfy useful to know. That ball has been dwelling in the long grass way too long.

The ghost of 2017 still seems to haunt the SNP hierarchy, blindsided by a UK general election they were assured by the then Prime Minister would not happen for another three years. Both Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon took a bit of a battering, losing seats and influence. We are in new territory now, a post-Brexit land with a new Prime Minister whose word is not on nodding terms with his bond.

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The danger of another snap election should not be understimated; Mr ­Johnson has ditched the Fixed Term Parliament Act which might suggest he plans to take a punt on an early poll when the ­vaccination honeymoon isn’t over, and the likely damning public inquiry into Covid cash for and from cronies will not have ­reported.

YET that is not a reason to delay the push for independence; rather the reverse in my book. The way to avoid a re-run of 2017 is to have a counter narrative at the ready. Time perhaps to re-imagine the kind of high profile pre-2014 advisory body whose track record on matters economic and much else was internationally unimpeachable.

It may be that all the UK nations have been desensitised to the corruption and incompetence of the Johnson administration because evidence of appalling ­behaviour comes so thick and fast. This last week alone we’ve had the news of a swift half million quid into the Tory ­coffers donated by a new peer created by Johnson despite his failing the vetting ­process.

We’ve had yet further evidence of the gross inhumanity of a Home Secretary refusing to accept a report detailing that the accommodation into which she threw asylum seekers was unfit for human habitation. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Admittedly that had a hollow ring during the Trump years. But at least it hasn’t yet been re-inscribed Patel style into “Come here at your peril regardless of previous persecution”.

It’s always worth reminding ourselves, and independence waverers, what the stark alternatives are to failing to deliver Scottish statehood.

This UK Government is an unprecedently malign one, and ruthless with it. An administration which has casually broken an international treaty by ­doubling nuclear warheads, which found money for a royal yacht unwanted by the royals, and has broken its commitment to foreign aid, quite literally taking the food out of the mouths of starving children in Yemen and elsewhere.

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A government which delivers an ill devised, hasty Brexit deal which has inflicted untold damage on our economy, caused mayhem in Northern Ireland, and then tried to blame the European Union for its own cackhandedness.

The Covid battle is vital. Of course it is. But it cannot be used by the SNP as an all purpose alibi for endlessly delaying the cause for which it was created. Devolve some of the heavy indy lifting, give your troops the hope and the roles they crave. Dial down feuding, and create a tent big enough to embrace both internal and ­external talent regardless of interpersonal relationships.

The other day I joined what seems to be a burgeoning army following the ­Believe in Scotland Facebook page. It has rules for those who wish to comment. In ­essence they are that this is not a space for internecine warfare, but for civil ­discourse. That is not a bad motto for the Yes family as a whole.

It is not a bad motto for a Yes campaign ready and willing to enthuse its tired and weary masses yearning to breathe free.