THE economics on offer from those in the Tory leadership campaign are, to be kind, bizarre. There would appear to be a near universal agreement (Rishi Sunak, maybe, excepted) that there must be corporation tax and maybe other tax cuts.

At the same time, Liz Truss excepted, there is a rejection of any idea of borrowing to fund what are essential public services. The clear implication is that those services will be cut as a consequence. Kemi Badenoch apart, there is no discussion of what those cuts might be, and Badenoch’s ideas on this are really very strange indeed.

Candidly, none of what any candidate says makes a lot of sense. There is no known credible economic model that suggests that in the face of a recession (which is where we are) a government should cut both taxes and spending. And in the face of inflation (which we also have) there is no known credible economic model that suggests that cutting taxes on companies and anyone but the very lowest paid will help stop prices rising. Instead credible economic models say this is the wrong time for spending and tax cuts because the former will make the recession worse, and the latter are likely to increase the rate of inflation. 

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So, whilst none of the Tory leadership candidates is very specific about what they propose, in general it is fair to presume that none of them are making any sense. Austerity appears the one thing that seems certain to be on their agenda.

It still bemuses me that austerity proved to be a vote-winning strategy for the Tories between 2010 and 2015, but could it work for them again? I personally doubt it. There are three reasons. 

First, it did not deliver on its promises when tried by George Osborne. The deficit was reduced but very few saw any upside as a result.

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Second, most (but I know not all) people were in 2010 in a much better place to face austerity than they are now. Twelve years of no real progress in wages for most people (again, with an exception in the case of the best off) has left people already financially stretched.

Third, public services in England (with knock-on effects in Scotland because of shortages of funding) are now in a terrible state. People simply cannot imagine the consequences of them getting worse. 

Scotland is, as I note, a little insulated by this. There is a competent government in Holyrood. There are problems with its budget, as I discussed in this column recently, but those in office clearly enjoy the confidence of many in the country. That, of course, is reflected in the electoral success the SNP enjoys. But within the context of the UK and the Westminster parliament things are very different. 

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Current opinion polls suggest the Tories are more than 10 points behind Labour in England and Wales. There could be a spectacular Tory collapse, and even a new leader is unlikely to change that much if they try to deliver the economically crazy candidates that the leadership candidates are proposing. 

The likelihood is then, that we are heading for an intensely difficult period, including for Scotland, which cannot be immune from a mess on this scale. But, what might this mean? The division between Scotland and the rest of the UK can only grow, I suspect. But the political framework within which that relationship is framed might also, I think change, and that matters. 

I might be an optimist (I have to be to survive in the areas in which I work) but I have the sense that this might be a pivotal moment. Let me go out in a limb. I think that whoever replaces Johnson might be the last Tory prime minister for a long time to come.

There are moments in history when political parties die. It has happened before in the UK as a whole. The Liberals never recovered from the First World War, having been an essential part of the two-party system for more than a century before then. It can also be argued that Labour ceased to have relevance in Scotland by 2015, with a very limited chance of revival.

I have a sense that this moment might be not dissimilar for the Tories. Not only are they bereft of ideas, they are ridden by scandal, and most crucially, they have moved so far from the centre ground of politics that they have ceased to have almost any relationship with the political party that once bore their name, or those that supported it. If the voting public realise that, I think a collapse in their vote is possible in Scotland and way beyond it. 

Of course, I may be wrong. But the need to think about independence in an entirely new political framework, even if it is one that remains intensely hostile to it, might be arriving, in my opinion. What I do know is that few would no mourn the Tories’ passing if it were to happen.