ARE you sitting comfortably – I’ll soon sort that. For starters by suggesting that the Westminster Tories and the SNP government have quite a lot in common!

Not in policy terms, obviously. Any ­Scottish cabinet secretary suggesting ­desperate migrants be stuck on a flight to Africa would get the shortest of shrifts.

Yet the uncomfortable truth is that ­governments of all hues have a ­certain shelf life. It’s not always linked to their ­competence, otherwise the hapless ­Conservative crew in Whitehall would long since have been history. They limped on only because the Labour Party were led by a man who attracted lots of groupies rather than essential voters.

I know many colleagues worship at the Jeremy Corbyn shrine; the electorate would never have worn him as a prime minister. You don’t need to be John Curtice to work that one out.

This is not to suggest Keir Starmer is a safe refuge for the disenchanted – in ­England, a lot of folk will cross their fingers and put an X in his box because, frankly, our southern neighbours are not ­overburdened by choice.

His serial wooing of Scots voters is not because he suddenly loves us, or that he’s had a Damascene conversion to the ­independence cause. Hardly! But he knows that every seat counts to get him into ­Number 10, and he senses a moment when Labour could be the comeback kids round our way.

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Which brings us to the question ­facing us Scots. The SNP’s rout of Labour and ­subsequent hegemony was down to a ­number of factors: Labour complacency and two strong, articulate Nationalist ­leaders in succession among them.

The SNP government also used its ­limited muscle to pass a number of laws that ­significantly improved the lives of many struggling families, providing a ­partial ­bulwark against malign Tory policies.

The SNP landslide in 2015 not only gave Labour a kick in the ballot boxes, but ­began a spell where the SNP came ­dangerously close to supposing themselves ­invincible. The new First Minister is still at it, ­repeatedly pointing to eight election victories as proof positive that no opponent should dare teach him how to win.

Yet we have to be honest about this and admit that of late that surefootedness has escaped them. As I argued the other week, they are badly in need of an elected ­second chamber to scrutinise contentious legislation before it blows up in their face.

However, the core problem is one which faces every administration in the end, almost regardless of their performance levels. People who point to the “blessed” Lady Thatcher and the “sainted” Tony Blair winning three polls on the bounce tend to forget that their parties lost ­thereafter.

Obviously there were imponderables for which no party could have planned – a war which for a while rescued Thatcher and another one which sank Blair. And, later on, a global financial crisis which threatened to sink everybody everywhere.

Nevertheless, history tells us there is something relentless about the swing of the electoral pendulum which is why parties in power have to have something fresh to sell.

How’s “that hopey, changey thing ­going?” the appalling Sarah Palin used to taunt her Democratic opponents. Just the same, hope and change are the buttons that successful parties press when they want the voters to believe in fresh starts.

For all the reasons we know about, the new First Minister of Scotland (below) has no little difficulty peddling hope, when so much has changed – most of which he could have cheerfully lived without.

The National:

He does still have a USP as the ­leader of the only major party in Scotland ­favouring independence. But he knows more than most that the long and ­ultimately fruitless march since 2014 has led to ­widespread disillusionment within his own ranks.

It is high-grade heresy to suggest this out loud, of course, which is why those of us not in thrall to party loyalty have the ­licence to say the unsayable. It’s ­interesting just the same that several of the high-profile rebels within the SNP continue to plight their troth to that party, or choose to fly solo, rather than scurry to another.

For what it’s worth, it seems to me cack-handed at best to escalate these ­family feuds rather than let the internecine dust settle in private. It merely plays into the hands of those who accuse the SNP ­hierarchy of shooting first and asking questions afterwards. Stairheid rammies rarely win voters.

For me, independence is ­overwhelmingly about building an impregnable movement rather than toeing any particular party line.

When details were revealed of why some people chose to vote No all those years ago, it was clear it wasn’t so much about not sharing a vision of a socially just, welcoming land, as it was folks ­being fearful about their personal economic ­security.

No surprise then that the last ­demographic to show a majority for No is the one which tends to be on a fixed income – often dependent on a pension which is risible compared to most of our European neighbours.

NOT attending to those very real ­concerns at government level is a ­dereliction of fiscal duty. Other people have beavered away at the numbers game; it needs the current administration to meet this conundrum head on. As Bill Clinton’s famous slogan had it: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

And it almost always is. It’s fine and dandy for those with other irons in the financial fire to dismiss the fears of those without other income options. Indy ­supporters in Holyrood and out need to recognise and respond to the growing number of people who have far too much month left at the end of their money.

They need to put front and centre of their campaign the steps already taken to try to ameliorate the worst excesses of the Conservative government. They need to put the Labour offer under ­scrutiny – not making cheap jibes about red ­Tories, but looking long and hard at all the ­pledges already ditched by an ultra-­cautious party leader.

That’s what happens when you’re so ­fixated about winning that you forget what the prize was for.

That’s what happens when you try to play both ends against the middle, ­pitching your appeal to Brexity former ­Labour ­voters in the north of England, ­setting your face against the single ­market, while failing to recognise the reality of the Remain vote in Scotland.

In Scottish terms, if how to help the ­dispossessed is the question, Keir Starmer is not the answer. Soggy socialism which bends with every breeze is not what this country needs. Nor the hope it yearns for.

However, Labour will go hell for leather on a pitch which says only they can stop the Tories. Not so, not true, but a potent slogan with a superficial appeal to many voters impatient to be rid of such a tawdry government in Westminster.

The hope that I find in the current unpredictable and decidedly choppy ­political waters is that the appetite for ­independence is pretty well undiminished.

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Despite all the battering, despite a ­largely hostile media, almost half of Scots remain thirled to the notion of our ­ancient nation reclaiming statehood.

There are many people who will never be convinced of this end game, and that has to be their privilege. They are entitled to their opinion even if, personally, I find it lacking in ambition.

However, we also know that there are tens of thousands of waverers who can be won over to Yes provided we can feed them confidence in their and their ­families’ future.

We can use the enthusiasm of youth to convince older demographics that their hope is justified, and change the ­scepticism of that older cohort into a ­belief that their grandchildren deserve so much better. For they do.