I'm conscious that my last two Scottish Review election diaries were rather gloomy affairs. I didn't enjoy the recent campaign and saw no point in disguising that fact, although in the final few days it finally came to life. The change took place half-way through the second of two Scottish leaders' debates at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Just after I'd launched a Twitter appeal to source a couple of pins I felt compelled to stick in my eyes, the first minister peered at her Labour opponent Kezia Dugdale and claimed she'd wobbled on the referendum question during a telephone call shortly after Brexit.
Although rather grubby – judging from the response it damaged Nicola Sturgeon's reputation for (relatively) straight dealing – it was also tit for tat. Earlier that week Ms Dugdale had said something about not wanting to go for a drink with the SNP leader, while in the debate itself she informed the first minister that voters now referred to her as 'that woman'. The interesting thing, however, is that Sturgeon's curveball only made sense in light of the result. At the time, hacks were puzzled by an intervention that seemed likely to shore up a key Tory argument about Labour being 'weak' on the Union, but what she was actually trying to do was counter a Labour 'surge' SNP strategists had clearly picked up as polling day approached.
A Daily Record poll, generally dismissed at the time, also captured this unexpected phenomenon, as did Ms Sturgeon's rather desperate eve-of-poll imploration to 'vote SNP, get Corbyn'. So what was my feeling by the middle of last week? That the Scottish Tories had lost their earlier momentum, that Kezia Dugdale had been considerably weakened and would be lucky to get more than a couple of seats, and that the SNP would end up holding on to the vast majority of the 56 constituencies it had secured back in 2015.
Pundits get things wrong – who knew? On the night, however, I managed to redeem myself by defending an exit poll most journalists and activists instinctively assumed to be wrong. It struck me early on that this was precisely the response to previous exit polls at the 2010 and 2015 general elections, both of which – with certain caveats – turned out to be broadly correct. Even as results began to trickle in, Nationalists I spoke to at Glasgow's Emirates Arena believed it was impossible the SNP would lose as many as 22 seats, as the exit poll had predicted. They were right, the party actually lost 21.
The 24 hours that followed were caffeine-fuelled stuff. From BBC Scotland's 'election cafe' (where I spoke of the prime minister's dramatically diminished authority) I joined ITV at the Glasgow count, then STV for a few hours, 'Good Morning Britain' at the Science Centre and Ireland's RTE via my iPhone. I also bashed out two articles before grabbing an hour's rest and plunging into another round of TV interviews back in Edinburgh. By 8pm, following a turn for Kirsty Wark of 'Newsnight', I was barely conscious. And every time I saw reference to the results, I found myself laughing uncontrollably.
At around 5am, when it became clear Alex Salmond was about to lose his seat, another pundit and I were asked for our reaction on STV's overnight coverage. I had to try very hard to be professional about this, for some readers might be aware we haven't exactly been bosom buddies in recent years. So, on air I made a point of praising his huge contribution to Scottish politics and observed that his defeat would be a big psychological blow for the SNP.
I hadn't realised, however, that the man himself had been listening to this as he prepared to be interviewed 'down the line'. The former first minister, it seems, had taken umbrage at my reference to an ungracious pop at his Conservative rival during his concession speech in Gordon. 'Some commentators,' I heard him say, 'should be very careful.' Once upon a time that might have sounded threatening but, in the circumstances, the menace had gone. Nationalists at Pacific Quay were surprisingly sanguine. Alex, they reflected, had had his time, it was Angus Robertson – another SNP casualty in Moray – they felt sorry for.
The most fascinating thing about the election was that it produced no clear winners, only losers. As I wrote at the time, it was also tempting to conclude that everyone had more or less got what they deserved. Following an anodyne and clumsy campaign, Theresa May hadn't deserved an increased majority (or indeed any sort of majority), while Jeremy Corbyn deserved to do better than anticipated given his surprisingly well-judged campaign. In Scotland, meanwhile, the SNP's muddled pitch was rewarded with the party being cut down to size, while the Scottish Conservatives deserved to bounce back after two decades in the electoral doldrums.
And in the days that followed, the long-dormant phenomenon of what I call 'nationalist unionism' began to reassert itself. Spotting an opportunity, the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson moved quickly to establish herself as a key player in the post-election horse trading, making it clear that the chief loyalty of her 13 MPs was to her and Scotland rather than Mrs May and the UK. Not only that, it seems they plan to sit as a 'party within a party' at the House of Commons and appoint their own whip. Usefully, all this gives me a contemporary conclusion to a PhD I'm about to submit on the old Scottish Unionist party and its claim to 'stand up for Scotland' in the 1930s and 1940s. As usual, there is nothing new under the sun.
Then and now, of course, it was more about political positioning than substantial activity, but Ms Davidson has played an impressive game since last Thursday. Entertainingly, London-based newspapers and broadcasters are now falling over themselves to find out who she is and what she wants, which reminds me of Nicola Sturgeon's similar moment in the sun a couple of years ago. How times change: now the Scottish Conservatives can credibly claim to be 'standing up for Scotland' in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations while the SNP leader has to contend with a bout of internal soul-searching over strategy and a second independence referendum. It's a cliché but an appropriate one: a week, as Harold Wilson once remarked, is a long time in politics.
Illustration by Surian Soosay