SCOTTISH politics is in a strange state. Noise, allegations and counter-accusations are getting more bitter by the day, while true believers of whatever political faith cling to their certainties.

Meanwhile, mainstream politicians such as Sunak, Starmer, Yousaf and Sarwar present their brand of “stability” as the answer.

These complex times are difficult to describe, let alone govern in, provide leadership or direction. Humza Yousaf’s (below) leadership will soon be six months old, and can claim to have brought some kind of stability.

This though beggars the questions of what kind, is it genuine, and is it enough? An SNP insider told me that “he has steadied a damaged ship”; another that “he has made all the right calls with all the right U-turns”.

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Behind these claims more is going on. The SNP are sleepwalking, senses dulled, directionless, going through the motions and repeating their greatest hits – hoping that the audience will applaud.

However, it doesn’t notice that for the most part it is talking to itself about its own interests, not what concerns voters – a fatal mistake which befalls parties long in power who are on the decline. This situation is not aided by a significant section of what passes for political discourse in Scotland. SNP haters foam with fury about the party, nationalism and independence. Some newspapers compare SNP Scotland to Belarus – a one-party dictatorship aligned to Putin (the Scottish Daily Express the past weekend).

The previous weekend one senior commentator spent an entire column on the SNP’s alleged anti-Englishness, his proof amounting to the fact that the party does not like Westminster and the “we” it invokes being the Scottish people.

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A smaller part of public life clings to the SNP and its certainties, closes their eyes and prays that everything will turn out alright. This sentiment mostly believed in Nicola Sturgeon and was shocked by her act of sudden resignation and deep evasions afterwards but is mostly back sipping the medicine.

This group is decreasing in size by the day but is still a powerful one in a party defined by huddling together over the years in a hostile environment. Some party elders react to stormy waters by responding that they have seen it all before and it will all blow over if people just continue knocking doors and leafleting.

The first sentiment reinforces the feelings of the second and encourages an unhealthy, binary discourse: SNP bad and SNP good. This ignores the actual nature of the SNP which is not in a healthy place.

There are numerous reasons for this, not one simple factor. Sixteen years of office and electoral success come at a price, such as hubris and believing your own hype. But underneath this the character and culture of the SNP and its members has, and is, contributing to the ongoing malaise.

The National: Manchester United have been named the most entertaining Premier League side of the century - thanks largely to Sir Alex Ferguson's dominant teams. Picture: PA SPORT

One long-term SNP member explained the party’s state: “The SNP are like Manchester United after Alex Ferguson (above).

"They have had a long period of winning and dominance with a leadership that grew increasingly authoritarian but could still grind out results. And then came the long hangover.”

It is an apt description because after Ferguson’s 27-year reign at Manchester United a succession of managers have come and gone with little success, who have had to live under Ferguson’s shadow. For Ferguson think the Salmond years and the Sturgeon era, which would make Yousaf the equivalent of David Moyes: decent, but with an impossible, almost herculean task.

The SNP are currently going through the motions. The “de facto referendum” is still trundling along. A resolution will be put to SNP Conference stating that a majority of the vote (50% plus one) in 2024 will be a mandate for independence.

There is no chance of the SNP winning a majority of the vote when it could not do it post-2014 in 2015. And if it could win 50% plus it is still a dead-end in not overturning the 2014 result of two million Scots voting for the Union.

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As many know the “de facto referendum” is nothing of the kind. It is a politics of trying to keep as much of the independence vote with the SNP in the face of the Labour challenge. Hence, it is not fundamentally about what it is claiming to be. Rather it is a politics of pretence, deception and having run out of road – a perspective that lots of senior folk know and are extremely vexed about.

Politics, for those who don’t live and breathe it every day, is background noise. Most voters don’t follow the details, nuances and minutiae. This is where the current SNP are letting themselves down. The leadership are now singing the tune of true faith of the dwindling base: the next election is independence all or nothing.

This means many voters perceive the SNP as a one-trick pony only interested in one thing above government and the state of the country – the charge their pro-Union opponents make all the time. In doing this the SNP are falling into a trap about how they do politics which is making their messaging counterproductive.

The National: A police car outise the home of Former first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, in Uddingtson, Glasgow, following her arrest on Sunday in the police investigation into the SNP's finances. The former first minister's arrest comes after her

The SNP’s current troubles and allegations about party finances and governance are the subject of an ongoing Police Scotland investigation but much of the broader picture is known. Yet having spoken to a significant number of senior, long-term and influential SNP members – each of them (bar the one who made the Alex Ferguson comparison) claimed little knowledge of the allegations.

When I asked them why this was, many struggled to explain. “Don’t you want to know what it is being done in your name and with your money?” I asked; “Aren’t you curious about the allegations?” and “If you knew what they were, you could be better armed to rebuff your opponents.” Many SNPers conceded all this might be true but they had not looked into the detail.

This is a strange kind of wilful denialism and deliberately ignoring reality which never ends well. Numerous factors contribute to this. The first is the SNP’s sense of itself as a family and tribe which has provided mutual support, connection and sense of belonging down the years. One SNPer said this is about the “one-of-us mindset”: if you are one of us you are given a blank cheque and can do wrong.

The SNP as a family and tribe worked for years in the wilderness, but as the party’s years in office mounted, it became one-way traffic; in which the leadership accrued power, avoided difficult questions and weakened accountability.

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All families sometimes shy away from embarrassing questions; the SNP were once a happy family, now they are an unhappy family.

One SNPer noted that the attitude of the party in the Sturgeon years became that “there are no flaws” with “no reward for reflection”; “it is now it’s undoing – people just don’t know what’s going on.” A long-time observer of the SNP says: “Many just didn’t want to know, stuck their heads in the sand and were not prepared to ask questions.”

A second factor is that the party’s 16 years of office and electoral success, after narrowly winning in 2007, began to seem increasingly effortless.

For years there was no serious opposition that contributed to an over-belief in its own wisdom, political intelligence and touch.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

The Sturgeon leadership will be viewed in retrospect as a wasted opportunity. All that political capital, goodwill and support post-2014 – and for what? No advance in independence as a project; no strategic priorities made in government, and a party and country managed via an increasingly manipulated democracy.

This leaves the SNP heading downwards in the polls, with rudderless leadership, poor messaging and a Labour Party now nipping at their heels. This can only end in voters taking revenge on the SNP in 2024 and 2026 – but to what degree we can only surmise.

Before this, SNP members need to wake up and begin to smell the coffee. They need to look at the state of their party, the levels of democracy and openness, the lack of detail on independence – and the current condition of Scotland.

The SNP are sleepwalking and drifting, talking to themselves and in denial about the facts. In politics, as in all aspects of life, this never ends well.