Nicola Sturgeon’s departure underscored how her commanding presence had for the most part held the SNP’s “broad church” together; so remarkably, in fact, that some nationalists probably had no idea how broad it really was with the socially conservative Kate Forbes nearly taking the crown from the socially liberal Humza Yousaf.

From the warm comfort of the sidelines, it was refreshing during the leadership race to see the candidates engage in policy debates; often passionately.

All of which again revealed that the party’s carefully crafted appearance of calm unity was, in reality, a brittle veneer that, without the Supreme Leader’s deft touch, could easily have been chipped.

Following their narrow 52-48 victory on Monday, Yousaf boldly declared how unity had been miraculously restored. “We are no longer Team Humza, Ash or Kate; We are a team”.

But that was not how some of his colleagues saw it. Political wounds can take a lifetime to heal.

From Ash Regan’s priceless sneers to the defeated and despondent Mrs Forbes telling her new party leader “where to stick it” – supposedly – when offered a demotion, the SNP lacked the appearance of unity and harmony.

Given the closeness of the result, with all but half of the party wanting the Highland MSP to be in charge, one would have thought that Yousaf might have thought it wiser to make sure she was in the shop rather than threaten to become a magnet for discontent if things don’t go well for the rookie FM in the short to medium term.

The ever-helpful Alex Neil, a former cabinet secretary and Forbes supporter, could not contain his disgust, describing the offer of the rural affairs report to him as an “insult and not a real effort to unite”.

Yesterday, Fergus Ewing, another ex-minister turned rebel, called for an end to the power-sharing arrangement between the Scottish government and its green cronies, branding the latter “wine bar pseudo-intellectuals”.

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When FM unveiled his new Cabinet, he insisted, with a straight face, that “there could be no more unity” in the SNP. Actually?

In a clear attempt to shore up the base, Yousaf has taken a defiant pose on the constitutional issue, expressing his certainty that “we will be the generation that wins Scottish independence.”

But in his brief conversation with Rishi Sunak when he mentioned his desire for Indyref2, there was an inevitable backlash.

Undeterred, one of Yousaf’s most striking appointments has been that of Jamie Hepburn as Independence Minister.

Naturally, it provoked an angry response from Scottish Conservatives, who sent a letter of protest to John-Paul Marks, Scotland’s top civil servant. Donald Cameron, the party’s constitution spokesman, said it was “not an appropriate use of taxpayer funding” given that the Scottish government has no power to hold another vote on the future of Scotland.

But I suspect Yousaf is happy that a political nerve has been sprained, believing that if the Tories complain about something, it must be the right decision.

Perhaps most worrying for the SNP chief is the prospect of a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which now looks likely given the Commons’ proposed 30-day ban on Margaret Ferrier for recklessly breaking Covid rules.

The independent MP, who lost the SNP whip and was sentenced to 270 hours of community service after pleading guilty to the breach, has a majority of 5,230. Due to the parliamentary process, it may take several months before any elections take place; no doubt to Mr. Yousaf’s relief.

But if and when it does happen, expect an all-powerful clash as it could be the first electoral test for the new SNP chief and Labor Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar will invest huge resources in the once Labor-controlled constituency. to build momentum. towards 2024 general election.

Indeed, a new poll, released yesterday – the first since Glasgow MSP Pollok took over from Sturgeon – suggested things are moving in a Labor direction in Scotland.

Savanta’s snapshot of 1,000 adults from February showed that in Westminster voting intentions, the SNP was down three to 39%, while Labor was up one to 33% and the Conservatives up two to 19%.

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Since June 2022, the gap has narrowed five times in a row, with the SNP’s lead falling by 15 points from 21 to just six, which is one of the smallest gaps between the SNP and the second-placed party since the referendum on 2014. Messrs. Starmer and Sarwar will be in awe of the direction of travel.

It is projected that if these numbers were replicated in the General Election, the SNP would lose 18 seats, 45 to 27, and Labor would win 17, one to 18, with the Conservatives taking six seats and the Liberal Democrats winning a further five. one.

The poll figures also showed Labor closing the gap to the SNP on Holyrood’s voting intentions.

While these numbers will cheer the comrades up, complacency remains your biggest enemy.

Meanwhile, Yousaf has to deal with the tigers on the NHS waiting lists, the deposit return scheme and the gender recognition reform bill.

As the heat of the General Election battle intensifies, party leaders will desperately try to instill unity in the ranks to maximize their chances at the polls.

The survival instinct will, of course, kick in as MPs desperately try to hold onto their seats and become eager to help maintain at least some semblance of party unity. Yesterday Sir Keir insisted that he was leading a “united” Labor Party after the leadership banned Jeremy Corbyn as an election candidate.

However, keeping political divisions and personality differences at bay is always tricky. business. However, political reality will always reveal itself sooner or later. Thankfully.

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