MAYBE it’s just me, but it feels like the renaming of Loch Tay to “Loch Tay Tay” in honour of Taylor’s Swift’s gigs this past weekend has been more cause for excitement for John Swinney than extoling the virtues of Scottish independence in this election.

ABC is the line: austerity, Brexit and cost of living. And on occasion, the notion that independence might be required to address these matters.

The word “independence” has even been removed from the SNP’s slogan on the ballot paper, ditching a plan first advanced by Humza Yousaf. And Stephen Flynn, who won plaudits for his performance in Friday’s leaders’ debate, also failed to make a strong pitch for Scottish autonomy. Indeed, in a recent interview, he claimed that “this election is about so much more than independence”.

As well it might be, but independence as an issue is lower down the list when it comes to SNP campaigning than in any election since the 2014 referendum – even if it is the “first line” in the manifesto.

It is genuinely difficult to find a clear-cut vision and articulation of the matter – the party’s stated reason for existence – in any of the media interventions and communications thus far.

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Meanwhile, Labour, who have not altered their position on self-determination, are set for the best electoral returns at a UK election in a decade, if polls are proven accurate. It all requires some explanation.

There is one theory that for me is a little too superficial. The problem is the personnel. Here we have a leadership, who, unlike during Nicola Sturgeon’s reign, don’t have the luxury of the promise of a new referendum. The Supreme Court decision has put that to rest.

In itself, this was a strategically inept approach in the first place – unlikely as it was that such an institution would interpret the law favourably as far as the self-determination of Scots.

Of course, this rejection was to be followed up with an ill-judged attempt to declare the General Election itself a “de facto” referendum. Then Sturgeon resigned, leaving an already botched strategy in a state of further disarray and confusion. If only there were people who knew what they were doing. People who were braver, more irreverent and better equipped.

Swinney, with the personality and politics of a bank manager, is a far cry from the acts of audacity and heroism required. If only they wanted it more. Then, the fix would be simple enough. A new leadership is required to take a popular vision of a future independent Scotland out to the masses.

Many who are estranged from the SNP due to the lack of leadership shown on the national question are drawn to this kind of assessment.

Don’t get me wrong – since 2014, the SNP leadership have often cynically marshalled independence as a tool for electoral mobilisation and to camouflage failures in domestic policy.

Today, this approach has reached its limits, and the party is at sea on how to advance the cause of Scottish nationalism. Thus it fumbles around, looking for a line to stick with that can unlock the kind of relevancy the party has usually enjoyed in post-2014 General Elections. But the problems here cannot be reduced to individuals alone.

The obstacles are far more structural, and unless there is a willingness to confront these, the idea of independence as anything approaching a practical reality will continue to wither on the vine.

Part of the reason for the hesitancy to talk about independence as a priority is obvious. The SNP cannot envisage a mechanism through which their goal can be achieved. But far more than that, nor can the Scottish electorate. That is why despite independence support remaining consistent, it has declined as an issue of overarching significance even for many of the 2019 cohort of SNP voters.

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By extension, this is why the SNP have decided to focus on “ABC” and “holding Labour’s feet to the fire” in Westminster instead.

There is, though, a fairly credible answer one might give to this quandary: that clamour for independence must be made irrepressible and reflected in polls and surveys as being a durable majority.

Interestingly, this was the position of the SNP high command in 2015, when a spokesman told the BBC: “As the First Minister set out, there will only be a second referendum on independence if there is clear evidence of a shift of opinion.” That shift was set at 60%.

Despite the manifold crises afflicting the British state, polls have never reached these heights, never mind sustained at such a level. What was once the vital resource of the SNP has become something more akin to a ball and chain around their apparatus. And that is not just about who leads the party, nor is it distilled in the challenges of wresting a “gold standard” referendum to which the SNP are attached.

It is also about the prospectus, and the detail – and the inconsistencies that abound in this regard despite having years to review and upgrade the 2014 case for a changed world.

The truth is, independence is no longer the “happy place” for SNP leaders and politicians. They don’t have sound answers on currency, borders or EU ascension. Note, too, that their representatives are not altogether comfortable when asked about what independence entails, or how it will be achieved.

What answers they do have are often glaring in their contradictions. Before the Supreme Court, the party could roll out propaganda and promise around a referendum, without the need for a blueprint for independence itself, to win votes. That is no longer viable.

Now the argument for independence itself must be won. On that, and with the evidence of the election campaign so far, the SNP are not confident. Yes, in the broad parameters and principles. But not on the substance.

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Many MSPs and MPs could not tell you why the Bank of England retaining monetary control over the Scottish economy gravely undermines economic sovereignty.

Or why after Brexit, a frictionless border between Scotland and England is fraught with difficulty should the SNP’s insistence on joining the EU remain – and that it is not the same proposition as that of Northern Ireland and the Republic, given the North retains alignment with the European single market.

These are not “happy” issues for the SNP to wade through. Thus the election campaign is one of consolidation, a narrowing of national ambitions and reflective of the intellectual paralysis at the heart of the project.