THE installation of John Swinney as SNP leader has given way to some impressive political hyperbole.

Swinney joined the SNP in his teenage years, and it is fair to say the party runs through his veins.

It is, after all, what he has dedicated much of his life towards. He is the steady and experienced hand that many in the SNP appear to be looking for. Even if, as Professor John Curtice has said, he wasn’t very good at it last time round. He wasn’t.

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But the abrupt loss of Nicola Sturgeon, the ongoing police investigation, the end of the road for the so-called independence “strategy” and a litany of failed domestic policy initiatives leave the party without much option.

Having failed to reproduce a new layer of leadership capable of uniting the party and providing direction for a fractured and rudderless independence movement, the company of an old hand has appeal. But the idea that the country has been “lifted” out of its malaise is, as some have claimed, an exercise in absurdity.

One poll conducted after Swinney’s appointment put the SNP down to just 15 seats at the forthcoming General Election. Of course, the usual health warnings apply and in the recent past I have been fairly bullish about the resilience of the SNP vote.

But the party apparatus and its elected members are deluding themselves if they really do believe Swinney can turn the tide effectively, timeously and convincingly.

After so long in office, with so very little to show for it, you need far more than to rely on the mantra of “competency.” That is the bare minimum anyone should expect from any government. It is not, by any measure, a vision or a strategy for political growth. And it is far from anything approaching an insurgent campaign for independence.

Then again, maybe that is the point that some SNP advisers have arrived at. That rather than hallucinating the pretence of independence being “frustratingly close”, the party needs a period of consolidation in the context of its many woes.

What might that look like? It would need a few elements. A leader with enough prowess to command the support of divergent parts of the SNP (Swinney). This individual should have the authority required to make a deal that can heal – even if at a bureaucratic – internal factionalism (making Kate Forbes Deputy First Minister).

Then, with the loyalties of Scotland’s civic and professional managerial sector in flux with a Labour government on the horizon, a fixation on business.

Not simply, as we have already seen under Sturgeon, the sale of Scottish wind power to multinational corporations, or the establishment of Thatcherite freeports, but a direct appeal using the language of the populist free-marketeer. Something like “it’s time to cut the red tape” around business (as press released already by Forbes).

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Independence can remain as a slogan, but when illusions in the same old gimmicks fail it is time for something different, and this also needs signalled. So scrap the “minister for independence.”

Another salve for the corporate sector, which also allows the party to shed any remaining influence of what is regarded as the malcontent grassroots of a declining movement that can’t offer the political protection and opportunities for votes, money and activism it once could.

The atrophy built up in the SNP would plausibly tend towards this outcome regardless. But this perspective would be incomplete without adding the police investigation into the calculus.

What we are looking at here is potentially very serious, given the party’s former chief executive, Peter Murrell, has been charged in connection with embezzlement and more may be on the way. If the SNP lose anything like the number of seats they are projected to in the General Election, that will hit finances hard.

Crowdfunding has obvious challenges in the context of the police investigation too. When it comes to membership, tens of thousands have left and are not about to return. Thus, the SNP are desperate for big business backers. Indeed, this may be the party leadership’s primary objective when it comes to securing its own financial future.

In short, Swinney’s unplanned rise to SNP leader and First Minister reflects a deeper crisis. In my estimation, this is a party going into what its strategists regard as the best possible survival setting.

But this “new” old leadership carries its own risks. Swinney could not be closer to Sturgeon.

If Humza Yousaf was a continuity candidate, Swinney is continuity on steroids. The problem being that he cannot shed the political detritus of the Sturgeon-Murrell era.

Lacking a better alternative to Swinney, his ascendency is something of a forced manoeuvre.

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After all, it wasn’t so long ago when Swinney himself resigned from frontline politics to make way for a “new generation.”

But it is also another fatal error, built on a foundation of errors over the post-2014 period. For readers of The National, it would be mistaken to invest misplaced faith in this new leadership at the expense of critical and independent thinking.

We have seen the results of that as a consequence of the deferential turn made after the independence referendum defeat.

Lessons, in that regard, have to be learned.

Swinney is being granted a honeymoon better than Yousaf ever enjoyed. There are important structural reasons for this, not least an impending election.

This has an obvious disciplining effect, even on outspoken MPs, MSPs, and activists.

They are busying themselves with talk of a new dawn, new opportunities and a new resurgence of optimism on the doorstep. But near-term self-interest cannot, indeed will not, solve the broader and deeper dilemmas.

Especially if it comes at the expense of the genuine intellectual rehabilitation required for the idea of Scottish independence to be anything more than a slogan with diminishing returns.