One of the oldest sayings in politics is that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them. Problem is that it is not true.
Sure, the starting point for there to be a change of administration at an election is that people must have lost faith in the existing administration but they also need to be persuaded that the alternative would be better.
And the current problem in Scottish politics is the failure for any Party to satisfy the second part of that test.
All three opposition Parties at Holyrood are, excepting a commitment to the union, which is, in truth, nothing to do with Holyrood, currently effectively policy free zones.
It's easy to berate the deplorable management of our public services under the SNP. Health, transport, education, justice. It would be difficult to choose which is the greatest shambles. And that's before you even consider major infrastructure projects. Bridges you can't cross. Ferries that can't sail. Hospitals you can't use.
But, and its a big but, in what way would a different administration do things........differently?
Labour would apparently spend more on everything. Except we are entirely silent as to where the money would come from. It certainly wouldn't come from restraining public sector wages. Indeed they are amongst that self same everything. Nor would it come from reviewing the big ticket items that so distort existing Scottish public spending; free personal care and free university tuition. Indeed they are also areas where we'd spend more money.
This simply lacks any sense of reality. Even when suggested in co-ordination with a wealth tax. Since Holyrood doesn't have the legal competence to levy a wealth tax.
It's just not credible.
But, let's be frank, barring the unanticipated departure of Richard Leonard to spend more time on the picket line, there is little prospect of Labour being more than a bit player after the 2021 elections anyway.
Which leads me to the Tories.
I like Jackson Carlaw, who was always good company at any election count when we were both younger activists back in Renfrewshire during a previous century. He is arguably also the best leader of (any) opposition since 1999. He deservedly won the outright Tory leadership at a canter.
But the whole contest was a policy free zone. A vote for Jackson was a vote for experience and, whisper it, also a vote against the other woman who was a "right wing lunatic".
A vote for the Tories in 2021 certainly isn't a vote for more spending. Indeed one of the few things they undoubtedly would do is align Scottish taxes with the rest of the UK. Arguably that would not lose much revenue but it certainly wouldn't bring in any more.
So what else would they do? Abolish the Curriculum for Excellence, presumably. But replace it with what? I have no idea. "Reform" the NHS. But how? Do "something" about transport. Again I ask what? Increase policing and lock more people up. Except they have no plan to fund this any more than has Richard Leonard. It certainly however won't feature a wealth tax.
Part of the problem is their own failure, for fear of electoral consequence, to confront the big ticket items I refer to. Not least because their principal beneficiaries are among key Tory demographics: home owning pensioners and middle class parents, or at least their offspring.
But at least they'd be more competent! I hear you protest. Mmm. The SNP administration might hardly be a ministry of all the talents, indeed, given the extent it is filled with Nicola's cronies, not even of all the talents in the SNP, but, with a handful of exceptions, do many of the Tories fill you with confidence they'd be much better?
But I'm going to end with a strange conclusion. The best alternative to the current SNP administration might be a future SNP administration.
The independence campaign is going nowhere. There is no prospect while public opinion remains broadly 50/50 that Westminster will concede another referendum. And there is not much the SNP can do about that.
What would however change things would be if public opinion became clearly and consistently in favour of independence. At some point the political imperative would force the moving of the legal goal posts.
Now, to date, the SNP have tried to keep their fragile "Yes" coalition together by doing nothing that might annoy anybody. The problem is that this is precisely what has led to the woeful underdelivery across the public sector. And people get that "lack of powers" only goes so far as an excuse. Suppose the terms of the debate were changed however? If it became not "we are doing so badly because of lack of powers" but instead "Look how well we are doing, just think how much better we could do with more powers?"
Difficult to imagine? Except that was essentially the underlying message of Andrew Wilson's growth commission.
And anyway, what else are the SNP going to do if returned for another five years? They are certainly not going to have another referendum.