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The Scottish National Party (SNP) has emerged from generations on the periphery to make a substantial imprint on mainstream British politics. However, in only a matter of months, the foundations of that success have crumbled and, by the admission of its leaders, the SNP is experiencing its greatest crisis in five decades. The roots of this crisis are not well understood, since most recent research has sought to explain the SNP's post-2014 successes. However, the article argues that these successes have always hinged upon a prior moment of politicisation in 2014 on the one hand, and annual cycles of mobilisation and demobilisation on the other. The article draws attention to the SNP's governing strategy of stabilising itself through a process of strategic depoliticisation on independence, which supplanted activist mobilisation with a politics of spectatorship. It then goes on to suggest that, for the SNP, this depended on a paradox of crisis in the British state and being a governing party of the British state.