YOU can understand why the police investigation into a solicitor used by former SNP MP Michelle Thomson caused the party leadership so many difficulties. The property business partly owned by Ms Thomson was wound up in 2011 before she became MP for Edinburgh West in 2015. It specialised in buying property cheap and selling it on quickly for a profit. Her property “empire” was reported to be worth around £1 million, comprising fewer than 10 properties. These numbers hinted at what end of the market Ms Thomson’s business was concerned with. Several transactions involved people who had begun to experience financial difficulty. It seemed an exercise in raw capitalism.

None of this was illegal. At no time was she charged or placed under arrest. Two years on, the Crown Office announced there would be no criminal proceedings. The Herald published a story in 2015 revealing that almost one-third of the SNP’s Westminster class of 2015 owned multiple properties. There is nothing illegal or indeed questionable about this. It did suggest though, that a party that had traded on its socialist identity was not as left-facing as it portrayed itself as.

It seemed that many of those involved were simply building a second income by exploiting the buy-to-rent market. I’m sure they are all good and thoughtful landlords charging reasonable rents but there is a lack of affordable and social housing in Scotland.

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The euphoria of widespread grassroots engagement in the independence referendum of 2014 coupled with the egregiously pro-Union stance of the Scottish Labour leadership had bequeathed to the SNP an astonishing windfall of more than 100,000 new members. A significant proportion were attracted by the implied promise of being part of a left-wing bulwark, standing strong against an increasingly hard-right and reactionary Conservative government at Westminster. Many would have been dismayed that a seam of unalloyed capitalism lay just below the surface of the party.

It appears that this dissonance between public rhetoric and private conduct was merely one problem. Another was the increasing sense of resentment among Westminster MPs about the nature of the relationship with the Holyrood leadership and in particular the influence as party chief executive of Peter Murrell, husband of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. One senior MP I spoke to last week said that Mr Murrell was regarded as the invisible man for never having visited Westminster. “Peter is a very capable party manager but many of us have found it strange that he’s never been down here to speak to us. And there’s no word other than ‘bizarre’ to have a situation where the CEO is married to the leader. It immediately cuts off a channel of independent communication where potential problems can be discreetly aired.”

There was also widespread dismay at the “peremptory and high-handed” treatment of Ms Thomson by the leadership. She is well-liked by her colleagues and many were deeply unhappy at the way she was treated by the party executive.

Tellingly, the party’s former leader, Alex Salmond, was singled out by Ms Thomson in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland for providing her with support and sympathy while his successor chose not to contact her .

There is consternation that at least one SNP cabinet secretary at Holyrood has been surprised at the absence of anything resembling a regular line of communication with Ms Sturgeon. Meanwhile, Mr Salmond has pitched up beside Holyrood with a sold-out show at the Edinburgh Festival, having quashed any suggestions that he’ll be stepping down from frontline politics. At 62, he is 14 years younger than Winston Churchill when he regained office as Prime Minister in 1951.

Some pro-UK commentators have begun gleefully to talk of the Scottish independence campaign being derailed owing to an outbreak of robust debate among some factions in the broader Yes movement. This is wishful thinking. The heat and dust generated by these scuffles has been a gift to the First Minister for it has diverted attention to a far greater problem at the heart of her party. Ms Sturgeon has promised supporters that the autumn will bring a recalibration of her party’s policies. For the sake of her leadership and the fate of the entire independence movement this will need to be much more than that.

The Tories’ chaos over Brexit ought to have provided the platform to rekindle enthusiasm for independence. Instead, while a cohort of the great and good have eloquently demanded that the UK retreat from Brexit, the SNP is uncertain about how to proceed, caught between full membership of the EU and membership of the single market.

In the three months since the General Election, the SNP has allowed Ruth Davidson to take centre stage. The Scottish Tory leader unwisely has chosen to believe all the fawning headlines, though, and has been hoist by her own hubris. Thursday’s public slap down by Damian Green, you feel, will be the first of several.

During this period, John Swinney’s Governance Review of Education was exposed as another exercise in timidity from a party that specialises in such. Since then, tail-docking of hunting dogs and no cigarettes for prisoners have been the sum total of radical reform from a party with four years to save the dream of independence. Even when it was announced that Ms Sturgeon was planning to meet the leaders of the influential Independence Convention, her advisers foolishly tried to quash the story, claiming falsely that there had already been regular meetings.

The SNP claims still to desire independence. Its recent conduct raises suspicions that it has decided to settle for ministerial cars in a devolved arrangement.