Leader: Leading the SNP will be harder than ever
The world has changed in ways few could have foreseen since Nicola Sturgeon took over from Alex Salmond in 2014 and the party’s high-water mark in terms of electoral success in 2015.
With war in Europe, the trauma of the Covid pandemic still felt, and an energy crisis putting a squeeze on households tighter than most have ever experienced, the mantra of “independence is normal” may be starting to lose some of its lustre.
Secessionist movements across Europe, in countries such as Spain, Belgium, France and Italy, appear to have stalled. In today’s world, the security of semi-autonomy and devolved powers within a sovereign state may be a preferable normality.
The SNP also faces the probability of a resurgent Labour taking power from the Conservatives at Westminster within the next 18 months. Sir Keir Starmer would not make as convincing a bogeyman as, for example, Boris Johnson, whose premiership was widely seen as a boon for Ms Sturgeon and her party.
Polling suggests the electorate does not share the SNP establishment’s enthusiasm for Mr Yousaf, who is dogged by an unenviable reputation for incompetence following his performances in charge of transport, justice and now health.
The party could suffer at the next general and Holyrood elections if Mr Yousaf wins the SNP leadership and lives down to expectations.
Finance secretary Ms Forbes might attract new converts to the nationalist cause, but in doing so she could alienate some supporters. The co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, who are in a power-sharing deal with the SNP, have signalled they would not be willing to work with her . Ms Forbes has indicated she would feel comfortable heading up a minority government.
It is hard to see how either Mr Yousaf or Ms Forbes could hope to retain the keys to Bute House for anything close to as long as the previous two occupants .