IT’S been a bit of a ten green bottles couple of days.

First, the head of comms goes and then the boss man himself.

Plus the membership statistics, about which there has been too much coyness for too long, are ­confirmed at 72,000.

Not even to mention threatened legal ­action by one of the candidates to stop the contest in its tracks.

Truly there can’t be many gobs left unsmacked. The party once proud of its ­enviable discipline has somehow managed to fashion a crisis out of a leadership ­drama.

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With barely more than a week to go, the tussle for the top job has challenged the upcoming season of Succession for ­guesstimates as to who wins what, when, and how. More pertinently, will their ­victory now border on the pyrrhic, given the number of fences in urgent need of mending.

The National: SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes,
attends a SNP leadership hustings,
in Edinburgh. Picture date: Friday March 10, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS SNP. Photo credit should read: Jeff Mitchell/PA Wire

Yet it ill behoves anyone serious about Scotland’s bid for independence to start dancing in whatever aisles they now ­inhabit. There will be quite enough untrammelled rejoicing in the opposition camps, who will be in collective disbelief that Christmas has come around again so soon.

It doesn’t make me an enemy of the ­independence cause to suggest that ­haemorrhaging the number the party has in around the last 18 months is worth ­investigating. There are doubtless myriad reasons why someone might let their party card lapse. Yet it would be the height of complacency not to at least wonder at the why of it. Cutting back or switching off?

The Scottish Labour and Tory memberships are both still tiny by comparison, ­especially the latter, but that’s no reason to suppose all is well in SNP world. The ­scunneration factor should not be ignored.

Some folks are scunnered just because the same party has been in power for a very long time. That is the way of these things. Think how ruthlessly the Conservatives binned the previously sainted Margaret Thatcher. The two most powerful words in the electoral lexicon are hope and change which is why they are endlessly ­deployed. Voters hope that a change will sort their problems.

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Some folks are scunnered because they joined at the height of the post-2014 ­referendum fervour and have been ­wondering why their indy bus seems ­reluctant to leave the garage. The Hydro event following the failure to win that first referendum had the flavour of a ­revivalist rally. Nae doot some new ­recruits who saw Nicola Sturgeon as the nation’s ­saviour have thought again. (It’s fair to note that some are retrospectively ­remembering why she lasted so long.) Yet having a leader married to a chief executive was always a gift to any and every conspiracy theorist. A bad advert for party democracy too.

We are talking almost 10 long years on from that heady Hydro gathering. Our country and the bigger landscape have altered almost beyond recognition. The UK continues to bleed jobs and ­influence thanks to Boris Johnson’s careless Brexit; the ­extent of Vote Leave’s deceptions is only now being fully uncovered.

Families from all UK nations continue to suffer mortgage nightmares thanks to the disastrous reign of Queen Liz Truss. As is traditional in times of peril, the UK Government trains its heaviest guns on seaborne migrants, having ­dismantled almost all safe and legal routes. In tough times, migrants are always the ­easiest scapegoats.

It is not difficult to see why independence has slipped down the agenda for many people the Yes movement needs to reach. Which is why I continue to ­support the candidacy of Kate Forbes who, of the three contenders, seems best placed to rally the hitherto unpersuadables.

Humza Yousaf, whose campaign has been vigorously supported by so many parliamentary colleagues, has had ample opportunity to impress in what he rightly describes as three tough jobs. He would be the right candidate if you think that the good ship SNP has no need to alter course. But the wrong one if your belief is that the movement, as a whole, needs to harvest votes in seemingly infertile soil. After the last 48 hours, the status quo is not an option.

The National:

Ash Regan has clearly suffered from a lack of profile. Yet her campaign, whilst feisty, has been lacklustre. We all know the potency of these three-word ­slogans so beloved of the Tories, but “voter ­empowerment mechanism” does not ­exactly trip off the tongue.

The Scottish Tories, mindful of their likely fate at the ballot box, gratefully hoover up any ammunition they can find and there’s certainly no shortage now. Added to the resignations, the ferries saga has been shambolic in many ways. ­Meanwhile, Douglas Ross and co have carefully averted their gaze from serial MOD debacles, not least the £3.2 billion contract for shiny new Ajax mini tanks which have so far cost £5.5bn, are six years later than the promised deployment, and have yet to see a single vehicle utilised.

SCOTTISH Labour is positively slavering at the thought of gaining back some ground from the Nats, so cue Keir Starmer hastening north of the border to laud Scottish innovation and lambast the SNP for turning rightwards. Pots and kettles spring to mind.

Here is a chap who has ditched all of his pre-leadership pledges, cast his left-wing predecessor into the outer ­darkness, and, in matters like Brexit, could ­easily pass for a Tory himself.

One of the ­saddest ­listens in recent weeks has been the ­Labour front bench complaining not about the heartless injustice of the ­latest migrant bashing legislation, but, instead, regretting the Government’s ­failure to curb the numbers or send enough folk back. Where is the people’s party’s ­ outrage at Rwanda? What has happened to their soul?

Sir Keir has tacked so far rightwards himself to recapture English Labour seats lost to the Conservatives, that his party, in some contexts, is almost indistinguishable from the one it seeks to replace. Lee Anderson, the Tories’ latest deputy chair, was until recently a Labour ­councillor. Clearly, this unattractive loudmouth found the jump across the aisle short and all too easy.

Anderson has clearly been cast as the voice of the Tory working class in the ­English north whilst in the south, Rishi Sunak is carefully sold as the anti-Boris – lookee here, a man who reads things, works hard, doesn’t think diplomacy is for the “girly swots”. Neither man will be an easy sell to the Scottish electorate.

Then there are the Greens. I’m not ­remotely antagonistic towards their founding principles. Far from it. But so eager are some SNP elected members to preserve the Greens’ deal with the ­Scottish government and hang on to that Holyrood independence majority, they have left their critical faculties at the door.

If you take a close look at those ­policies which are currently most contentious – the road to a just transition, gender ­recognition reform, the deposit return scheme, you will find Green fingerprints all over them.

This is not to doubt their ­sincerity over these issues, more to recognise that in all of these areas, the ­accompanying ­legislation has – how shall we put it ­delicately – failed to have been ­comprehensively thought through or thoroughly enough road ­tested. It is a big ask to go straight from the political margins to instant ­ministerial preferment. Good ideas are only good ideas when you can show ­workings and demonstrate ­effective delivery.

I know not how many of the 72,000 card-carrying members have already cast their vote. I have been assured, in no uncertain terms in the Twittersphere, that folks have made their own minds up unaided, thank you very much!

I would only observe in respect of any switherers that if they discount Kate Forbes because they don’t share her ­religious convictions – I don’t either – I suspect they and their troubled party will live to regret it.