AN ex-SNP MP has said the party still has time to "change the narrative" following what he insists has been “one of the worst crises” since he joined in the 1990s.

Stephen Gethins – a former adviser to Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon – said in The Times there were questions to be asked over the SNP’s future but their core messages still resonated in Scotland and they remain a “powerful force”.

Despite the arrests of former chief executive Peter Murrell and ex-treasurer Colin Beattie – who were both released without charge pending further investigation - amid a probe into the party’s finances, Gethins pointed out how the SNP had led in every opinion poll published since Sturgeon resigned as first minister.

And he insisted until Unionist parties can come up with answers to key questions on the constitution and Europe, the SNP “will continue to win elections”.

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He said in his column: “It has been a torrid few weeks for the SNP and a less than ideal start, through no fault of his own, for Scotland’s new First Minister Humza Yousaf.

“This is certainly one of the worst crises I have experienced since joining the SNP as a teenager in the 1990s.

“These difficulties have been readily picked up by commentators across the UK, with claims that the SNP is 'finished' or in 'meltdown'.

“There are undoubtedly significant questions to be answered over the party’s future, however, but the SNP remains a powerful force and to paraphrase Mark Twain, part of Scotland’s US diaspora, rumours of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

“It is worth remembering the SNP’s core messages still resonate in Scotland. Independence remains popular, Brexit remains unpopular and Scotland’s governing institutions are more trusted than their UK counterparts.

“While the Conservatives find themselves 20 to 30 points adrift of Labour in the UK polls, the SNP has led in every opinion poll published since Nicola Sturgeon resigned.”

He stressed this did not mean the SNP’s success would continue, but given there is more than a year until the next General Election, he argued they do have time to recover. The next Holyrood election, meanwhile, is not for three years.

Gethins laid out how the SNP could afford to lose a third of its seats and still have an overall majority of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons.

The international relations expert added: “It [the SNP] has time to change the narrative. There is still over a year to go until the next electoral test. We all know a lot can happen in that time.

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“The SNP’s opponents also face major challenges. According to the polls the Conservatives continue to lose ground, with the UK Government even more unpopular in Scotland than it is south of the border. Labour’s in a better position, but key challenges remain.

“To win the next election Labour must gain seats across England with a pro-Brexit, anti-immigration and low tax message, which will not do its Scottish candidates any favours.”

Gethins added: “Serious as it is, the SNP’s current crisis will, at some point, come to an end, and debate will return to firmer ground for the party — the constitution, which government is most trusted to deliver public services and our relationship with the rest of Europe.

“Until UK parties have some answers to these questions, the SNP will continue to win elections and Scotland will move closer to independence.”