ANALYSIS: The continuity candidate continues the disappointment of the SNP

His first speech to a large gathering of his members more than lived up to that claim.

In fairness, Mr. Yousaf has shown that he can be a very good speaker.

His hoarse whisper goes a bit to Marilyn Monroe at times, but there was a real tingle as he asked people to imagine how they’d feel the morning after a yes vote.

He also showed empathy and took a risk when he walked towards a heckler who cut him off and blamed the crowd at Dundee’s Caird Hall for booing them.

But the lingering sin of the Sturgeon years — promising the faithful that the next election would be a game changer when voters are really at stake — only added to the disappointment

The SNP leader said that “page one, line one” of the manifesto for the expected 2024 election will read: “Vote the SNP for Scotland to become an independent country.”

It’s nothing that isn’t in his gift, of course, as the Union is reserved.

Therefore, he argued that an SNP victory in the election – later defined as winning most of the 57 seats – was a mandate for independence and would offer the British government an election.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf claims SNP victory in general election would be a mandate for Indy

Either accept independence as a done deal and open negotiations, or grant Indyref2.

Privately, SNP sources admit that there is no realistic prospect of a UK government accepting independence solely on the back of an election victory for the SNP.

The very best the nationalists can hope for in an ideal vacant parliament is Indyref2.

So even if Mr. Yousaf presented it as either/or, only a second referendum is possible.

That means his message boils down to this: an SNP majority is a mandate for Indyref2.

The problem for him is that this is the same old position that the SNP has taken in successive elections and the constitutional voter has not moved.

After the 2015 general election and the 2016 Holyrood election, Nicola Sturgeon said she had an “iron” mandate for a second referendum. Ahead of the 2017 general election, she said that winning the majority of seats by the SNP would mean another step towards a “triple lock” mandate.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf is challenged by hecklers at SNP Congress over NHS scandal

Now Mr. Yousaf is campaigning for a “page one, line one” mandate.

The branding is new, but in the end it’s the same thing: asking the UK government to play along if the SNP wins.

It hasn’t worked in the past, and it’s not clear why it should work in 2024.

In fact, given the SNP’s decline in the polls and the prospect of the party losing a large chunk of its MPs to Labour, it’s particularly unclear why it should work this time.

After the SNP lost a third of its seats in 2017, Ms Sturgeon dared not brag that she had secured a triple-lock mandate, despite having just won one on her terms.

Instead, she accepted the political reality, announced a “reset” and put her plans on hold.

But Mr Yousaf suggests that even if the SNP were to lose a comparable stake, it would still be counted as a victory that would melt Britain’s hearts. Yes, exactly.

Worse still, it is clear that Mr Yousaf’s own party is unaware of what his plan is.

MP Pete Wishart, after hearing Mr Yousaf, insisted the announcement was a de facto referendum with the independence threshold set at 50%+1 of the vote.

This is categorically not what was announced – according to both Mr Yousaf and his team.

It does not look good.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf’s Indy plan muddled by SNP MP Pete Wishart

Like all politicians, Mr. Yousaf is trying to achieve both.

He said after his speech that even if the SNP did not win a mandate in the general election, it would still have a mandate for Indyref2 in the Holyrood 2021 election.

But as Ms Sturgeon noted, momentum matters and regression in an election cannot be portrayed as a success.

The truth is, this was a speech aimed at SNP members who are weary and jaded after the drama of the last few months.

Mr Yousaf energized them for a while in Dundee but ultimately set them up for another disappointing peak.

Grace Reader

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