MANY years ago, I found myself in a forest somewhere near Winchester on a BBC hostile environment training course organised by the SAS. Bear with me – this will get relevant.

We’d been taught first-aid training, recognising different rifle and gunfire types and finding shelter. Amid one exercise, something unexpected happened. A group of men came running down the hill, firing what did indeed sound like AK-47 rifles.

We all took flight into the forest, taking care to zigzag as instructed and encountered planted casualties – a way to test our judgement about what to do. Obviously, with broken limbs, the normal advice would be not to move them.

But with AK-47s bearing down, normal bets were off.

I came across a guy, writhing on the ground with a “broken ankle”, who said he couldn’t walk. I asked if he could hop, yanked him to his feet and ran shoulder to shoulder, as he hopped through the forest on his good leg.

Meanwhile, some other colleagues were intently performing a proper first-aid job on a woman with a “broken arm”, even as the guys were pointing rifles at their heads.

Can you see where I’m heading with this?

Humza Yousaf and the SNP have a gun at their heads right now, called a seriously disenchanted electorate. The latest YouGov poll suggests Scottish Labour might gain 23 seats from the SNP at the next General Election including weel-kent faces like Mhairi Black, Tommy Sheppard and Stewart McDonald.

This is the electoral equivalent of a gun aimed right at your temple. There is no time for a perfect, slow, dignified escape. The absolute priority should be moving quickly, acting fast and fighting back.

Yet the “official” line pushed out yesterday conveys none of that urgency.

David Linden MP said: “Voting SNP is the only way to get rid of unelected Tory governments in Scotland for good.”

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It’s perfectly true, but it’s not good enough.

Nor are any other auto-pilot responses.

Let’s be clear. There are many things Humza Yousaf cannot change. There is no lawful route to independence at the moment, and that’s doubtless prompted some Yessers to consider a vote for Labour to get rid of the Tories – though there are only four occasions since 1918 when Scottish votes have changed the overall Westminster result.

That electoral point is worth making, but it can’t be the main reason to vote SNP. Nor is “holding Labour’s feet to the fire” – indeed, that’s a phrase I would cheerfully burn. There must be a positive case for the 53% who back independence to hold the line at the next General Election and it must be delivering bold new policies for Scotland that UK Labour will be reluctant to endorse.

And constantly emphasising that Scotland is doing better on almost every front than poor, benighted, Tory-run England. Yes, that’s a pretty low bar.

And we should be planning to aim much higher.

But it’s an achievement nonetheless. And one that must be pushed at every single opportunity.

Humza has made some strides, pointing out that Scotland is virtually strike-free, thanks to negotiated pay settlements with frontline staff, while England is bracing itself for a junior doctors’ strike next month which could mean 200,000 cancelled procedures. But we need to hear much, much more about the different consensual approaches to EVERYTHING including pay-setting in Scotland.

The opposition and mainstream media will not spell this out for Humza Yousaf. He must grab every opportunity to do it himself.

Opening evidence to the Conveners Committee meeting yesterday, for example, the FM could have invited all committee chairs to back him in condemning the cut in overseas students enacted at Westminster, which will deprive Scottish universities and host cities of billions, just to help the Tories massage awkward figures due out today showing net migration is at an all-time high. Yes, such a nakedly political comment would have annoyed the committee chair.

But it would have got noticed.

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At FMQs today, the FM should announce the Scottish Government will not enact the Anti-Strikes Bill passed by Tory MPs this week, which will leave one in five workers effectively unable to strike. If this can be done in conjunction with Labour/Plaid-run Wales, so much the better. It lets Humza challenge Anas Sarwar to promise that this and the Tories’ hideous Public Order Act will be undone immediately if Labour wins.

Whatever the answer, it shows Scotland leading the protection of progressive values.

But only if the FM makes the case, uses the spotlight and plans the announcement.

Humza Yousaf cannot undo the harsh criticism delivered by Kate Forbes during the leadership campaign, nor the furore over arrests, mobile homes and unaudited accounts. He cannot easily undo the policy problems inherited from the previous administration. He cannot magic up new ferries more quickly than Ferguson’s can produce them.

But the FM should never mention those ferries again without an accompanying, heartfelt apology to islanders and a plan to restructure – and probably merge – CalMac and CMAL, giving islanders equal numbers with mainland professionals on those company boards right now.

The Scottish Government could also devise a compensation scheme for island businesses whose summer season is in tatters. It’s not the long-term answer – it’s belt and braces action while due process grinds slowly on.

Now I’m not suggesting the SNP throw proper policymaking to the four winds. Absolutely not. But slowness and hesitation don’t guarantee great outcomes either.

For example, it’s high time the new FM took a new approach – pioneered so successfully by the Irish – and gave the controversial marine protected areas idea (HPMAs) to a Citizens’ Assembly for evidence-taking and resolution.

In short, as Holyrood goes through its legislative processes, two other things must happen.

Quick wins to give more power to citizens.

And an FM on the front foot, vigorously defending and explaining the advances Scotland has made compared to the rest of the UK.

In short, get off the ropes, Humza.

At the last FMQs, Douglas Ross honed in on Jenny Gilruth and suggestions she’d postponed rail repairs to avoid upsetting her own constituents over the Christmas break. The Tory leader and the press focused on the FM’s apparent flip-flop over an investigation.

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But where was the bullish explanation that the work will help complete the electrification of Scotland’s unique, publicly owned railways before any other part of the UK – reducing emissions and future costs?

In that same FMQs, Alex Cole-Hamilton highlighted the tiny number of Scottish rivers monitored for sewage spillages compared to England. That’s true – and as Humza explained, Scottish Water will install a thousand new monitoring points this year and see if more are needed.

But the massive unstated point is that Scotland has a public water system – apart from PFI wastewater treatment plants. Sure, Scottish Water isn’t perfect. But English campaigners would give their eye teeth to have Scotland’s situation today. Let’s hear about it.

On energy bills, it’s not enough to point out renewables-rich Scotland is paying the highest charges and connection rates in the UK, whilst enduring the worst fuel poverty.

The FM could also explain that an SNP first minister created the renewables sector single-handedly and in the teeth of opposition from Westminster parties that still favour nuclear – Labour included. Yes, that FM was Alba’s Alex Salmond – but credit where credit is due. Little of Scotland’s renewable capacity would exist today if he and the SNP had not been running Scotland at the time.

Indeed, energy could be an area where Alba and the SNP bury the hatchet and devise a joint stance on a National Energy Company, set up this summer to mastermind pilot projects for green heating, over which Holyrood has control, unlike the rest of the reserved energy portfolio.

Yes, there’s the political risk of Humza looking like Alex’s little helper.

But there’s an even greater risk doing nothing. Or waiting till the SNP have lost 20+ seats to Labour (not to Alba, according to YouGov predictions) in a General Election. If that happens and Labour forms the next UK Government, the SNP will be on a slippery slope in the next Holyrood elections, taking independence with them. And Alba will not have the clout to step in and save the day.

So, what’s it to be?

Dare a bit, or wait till that electoral gun finally fires?