STRANGE “defeat”, when this number of SNP seats would once have passed Margaret Thatcher’s rule — that a majority of representatives for independence in Scotland guarantees a new nation-state. But the rules have changed since — and to be fair, in its pursuit of a legal indy referendum in 2014, the SNP played its part in changing them.

But if this is instead a “victory”, it’s a gey strange one. One that includes both Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson, the vital past and the leading present of Scottish Nationalist politics, being removed from their seats by an overt and covert coordination of cross-party Unionist campaigning.

The dominant question from establishment media fired at independence supporters is whether this result kills off the prospect of a second independence referendum. The political answer is a shoulder-shrug: who knows, right at this moment?

Will it take 18 months of the new Tory/DUP majority, tottering disastrously through the Brexit negotiations, to crank the Scottish-national escape route into position again, ready for our next jump?

Or will another General Election before the end of 2017 be needed to secure a robust progressive majority at Westminster? If the SNP suffer electoral damage again, then their remaining MPs may be inevitably pulled into helping the Corbynites turn the UK into Norway, rather than Scotland into Denmark.

This is the kind of dramatic script the political classes thrive on. Extremely well-tailored men and women, on either side of the politician-media divide, play the game of position amid the monumental theatres of Westminster or Holyrood.

I make occasional visits to this land of pomp and circumstance myself. On Sky News last night, I overheard Sophy Ridge and Rachel Johnson comparing Versace jackets, had Ken Loach at my elbow hymning the praises of 1960s TV producers, and saw Paul Mason prowling the grass on a lawn at Westminster.

It’s not that it’s not fun. But increasingly, I sit in these spaces and realise that it’s the very arrogance of “anchors” and “pundits” and “representatives” and “leaders” that is the problem. It’s their (our) shared vocabulary and terms of reference, their (our) accumulation of capital of all kinds, that is partly being reacted to by this recent run of wildly unpredictable plebiscites.

It feels to me we have to go to a primal, psychological and emotional level, when we look at some of the Scottish outcomes of Thursday’s election. For example, take a voter who usually identifies ideologically with a first party, voting for an ideologically differing or even opposed second or third party, in order to stop the constitutional upheaval of a fourth party (which advocates, say, the right to choose a path between Brexit and Scottish independence).

What is it about an indyref2 that scares and enrages so many, that could make them so strategic about their vote? I’ve asked this of Yes-supporting relatives who are younger and much more sociable than me, living in and around the bars, malls and afterschools of contemporary Scotland.

And intriguingly, what they report among many of their relatives and friends is a literally physical turning-away from the topic of independence. The eyes are averted, the conversation is awkwardly shifted, backs are turned to the issue.

Those who don’t agree with it don’t seem to have the resources within themselves to want to engage in any kind of debate on the topic. “We said no — we meant it”, went Davidson’s blunt and truculent slogan. We have some fine Scots words for this attitude: thrawn, carnaptious. The culture intimately knows this level of grumpy stubbornness.

Davidson’s appeal has utterly escaped me up till now, but it makes sense in this context. It’s her bodily awkwardness, her boorish attacks and laddish humour, her raw cultural populism (bestriding tanks and bulls, yearning to be on Strictly Come Dancing). Oor Ruthie is the incarnation of a Scotland that isn’t comfortable in the world, knows that it never will be, and thus will defiantly stay just exactly as it is.

Some might call this the very definition of the Scottish cringe — a sense of accepted inferiority before a larger identity or structure that has been oppressive and dominant for many years (in the Scottish case, since the Union of 1707). But that might be too easy a charge to make.

I remember Jack McConnell, as a First Minister in the early years of the Scottish Parliament, making it his aim that the “Scottish cringe” about “enterprise and wealth-creation” (well, it was 2004) should be dispelled. But that language of priorities has been entirely continuous in Holyrood since then, all the way up to the Vogue-elegant Nicola Sturgeon.

The first-ministerial press schedule moves Sturgeon smoothly from new business opportunity, to new community service, to new sculptural object. It’s a steady display of Scottish can-do, a constant celebration of a now secular “enterprise”.

Herself, her ministers and the SNP government have attempted to be a constant manifestation of capability. Over morning toast in a Dumfries B’n’B, a current minister once described it to me as the “golden thread of competence, running through everything we do”.

Their theory of independence was that competence breeds confidence, and that confidence breeds an incremental demand for more constitutional power, which would eventually produce a citizenry strong and diligent enough for nation-statehood. The cringe would be steadily unfolded from its bent and crabbed posture, one offshore windfarm and gleaming new health-and-social-care centre at a time.

Yet this theory hit a real bump on Thursday. It’s easy to say this could have been anticipated. The structural limits of devolution under austerity-driven Westminster Tory governments make the ability to demonstrate competence tougher and tougher. If you stand on this narrow, almost technocratic ground, you become suddenly fragile when some uncomfortable numbers begin to dent your performance record.

There’s a response from many on the left of indy that this is the ScotGov’s just desserts. If a smaller part of Thursday’s attrition of the SNP turns out to be a Scottish embrace of Corbyn’s democratic-socialist programme (entirely wasted in voting for the schizoid Scottish Labour Party, but there we are), then the critique of the SNP is implicit.

You could even argue that Corbyn’s Labour is somewhat more “indy” than the SNP itself. Their manifesto policies have seized the opportunity of a “Lexit” — a left Brexit — that would (arguably) give Westminster more control over development, investment and wealth-redistribution than a Scotland with full EU membership would ever have.

There’s a great irony here. Davidson and the Unionist front bawls at Sturgeon to “get back to the day job”. Yet it’s perhaps too much attention to mundane advance which has let the substance of the ideal of independence decay. Many of us — particularly around Common Weal — have already taken up the policy task of imagining those radical new institutions that independence could enable, in lieu of the SNP government actually doing it.

So instead of retreat into the bunker, a more radical, less gradualist SNP? Let’s see if it happens (Tommy Sheppard, you’re up next). But there is something else occurring in Scotland. It’s an infernal fusion — between a general, European popular alienation from the political classes; and a very specific and historic Scottish mindset, which ultimately questions the seriousness of the national ground it stands on.

“Gie’s peace, Nicola” may be its street expression. The problem is, the 21st century won’t “gie Scotland peace” — and we must be in debate with our compatriots about the best form of governance to negotiate the coming torrents of change. But after Thursday, we must admit to an ambient anti-politics in Scottish life. How we dispel this creeping, comforting smog is the next challenge for the indy-minded.