THESE are difficult days if you are a member of the SNP. It seems that hardly a day passes when some revelation hits the headlines.

This week, it was the arrest of the party’s treasurer Colin Beattie who was arrested as part of the police investigation into the party’s finances. Beattie was later released without charge, as was former party chief executive Peter Murrell before him.

Newspapers and news websites have been full of every twist and turn of this story for weeks and the resulting commentary sometimes gives the impression that the party is over – a suggestion not backed up by the facts, or certainly not yet.

That’s why it’s important to remain grounded in reality when assessing the damage done to the SNP and its likely long-term impact. Here are five aspects of the investigation and its fall-out you would be advised to bear in mind.

1: The case for independence is stronger and more urgent than ever.

While our minds have been concentrated on the SNP’s woes, there has been no shortage of political developments which emphasise why we need independence as soon as possible. Some of these have involved evidence of Westminster failures and others underline advantages which would help Scotland flourish if it were standing on its own two feet.

In the former file, you’ll find the row over a conflict of interest over shares held by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife in a childcare firm which could benefit from a policy introduced in last month’s budget. This is the latest in a long line of stories generated by the Prime Minister’s financial affairs and has resulted in Sunak being investigated by Westminster’s standards watchdog.

And it’s not just Sunak. Former prime minister Boris Johnson is, of course, still waiting to learn the consequences of an investigation by the Privileges Committee of MPs into the breaking of Covid rules at Downing Street parties.

Then there is the Tories’ abhorrent treatment of refugees, compounded this week by the UK Government’s bid to give Home Secretary Suella Braverman the power to ignore European judges trying to halt migrant deportation flights from the UK.

And, of course, there is the ongoing and deepening row in which Westminster seeks to limit Scotland’s international diplomacy initiatives.

While in the latter file, the fears that Scotland’s substantial renewable energy sources were set up to subsidise the UK economy were raised once again when Labour leader Keir Starmer underlined the potential for doing exactly that in a recent speech.

All of these only add to the urgent need for Scotland to escape the control of Westminster if it is ever to truly flourish. That urgency will remain the top priority of any Scottish Government led by the SNP, regardless of this inquiry.

2: Beware attempts by the Tories to use the police inquiry as a bid to destroy devolution

Tory peer David Frost – the mastermind behind the negotiation of Boris Johnson’s disastrous Brexit deal – wrote yesterday that “the SNP’s implosion is a chance to put failing devolution into reverse”.

Some Scottish Tories hit back at Frost’s comments but his stated aim had already been embraced by a UK Government determined to seize powers coming back from Europe away from the Scottish parliament.

Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has also acted to block gender recognition legislation passed by MSPs of all political parties at Holyrood in just another attack on devolution being challenged by the Scottish Government.

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Dangerously, some independence supporters have spoken out against the Scottish Government’s stance and in favour of the Westminster block. They need a lesson in democracy and I’d be happy to give it to them: If the majority of a democratically elected Scottish Parliament passes legislation within its agreed powers, it should not be stopped by Westminster. Alister Jack’s actions amount to an assault on devolution. The principle of democracy should be defended always … not just when you happen to agree with its decisions.

3: Beware calls suggesting that the SNP must be removed from the independence movement before we can ever gain independence.

The SNP are undeniably successful at winning elections – they have triumphed at the last eight. They’re not quite as triumphant at the trickier proposition of winning independence – but does anyone seriously believe that prospect will come closer without a pro-indy majority in Holyrood?

THE suggestions regularly made by some on social media that the SNP now need a period in opposition do not seem to me to be a strategy for winning independence in the foreseeable future.

It is, of course, true that there are other pro-indy parties in Scotland but voters have so far been reluctant to embrace them in significant numbers and, even taking into account recent polls showing a drop in SNP support, there are no signs that is about to change.

4: Remember: The police investigation is just that: An investigation.

Crucially, at the time of writing, no one has been charged. It is therefore not true to suggest any wrongdoing has been found. That’s not to downplay the probe’s significance but it seems advisable to keep the matter in perspective until the full facts are known.

Of course, the recent sight of police officers descending on the home of Peter Murrell and SNP headquarters (was that really a packet of teabags being taken away by the police for investigation?) is bound to cause concern but it’s worth stating that it is not in itself an indication of guilt. That would require an individual or individuals being charged and found guilty in a court of law. That has not happened.

Of course, the Contempt of Court Act is supposed to limit what can be reported, but in this matter, it’s hard to see what is not already in the public domain. We know exactly what the investigation is probing, we know where the police have been searching and who has so far been arrested (and released without charge). There has been widespread publications of speculation about who might be arrested next and just about every conceivable ramification of the investigation.

Every development is splashed over front pages as if they are vital breakthroughs. The motorhome! The “posh Portuguese bolthole”. Is there anything that actually falls within the contempt of court restrictions? If not, why all the dire warnings on social media?

Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable for the police to investigate politicians and political parties. I for one am glad to live in a country where such investigations are possible. However, the police are accountable too and there are questions about the scale and very public nature of their actions which need to be asked when the fervour has died down.

5: If change is needed, it must be the right change.

The need for change within the SNP has been emphasised by every politician from every political party – including the SNP themselves – who has wandered anywhere a microphone in the last few weeks.

One of the problems with this is it suggests a general acceptance that something somewhere went wrong. Until the results of the investigation are made public, it’s impossible to be sure what exactly that is. If you don’t know what went wrong, it’s impossible to put together a plan to fix it. Obvs.

The general consensus seems to be that there is a need to delegate more power from a small, tight management team and for greater transparency … but some want greater, more wide-ranging changes. Such is the clamour for change that nothing will satisfy everyone.

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Some welcome changes in the party have already been made. The appointment of Jamie Hepburn as Independence Minister is an overdue refocusing on the independence issue and a sign of its significance to the party’s priorities. It will hopefully be followed by a strengthening of the ties between the SNP and the wider Yes movement as an acknowledgement that both have important and collaborative roles to play in the campaign ahead.

Other changes are needed to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to events that have yet to play out. There is – as there should be – a governance and transparency review under way and it’s only right that we should allow that to do its job before embarking on a raft of such important changes.

As I’ve said, none of this is in any way to minimise the scale of the challenge facing the SNP but it seems reasonable to await further developments before interpreting events so far as a sign of guilt or wrongdoing. No party can be expected to react properly to an unclear situation which is constantly changing. There is too much at stake here – not just for the SNP but for our parliament, our country and our future – to rush to a judgement without knowing the facts.