Despite there being many possibilities for Scotland’s future between now and the next UK General Election, one intriguing consideration since Clegg and Cameron took to the rose garden to announce their parties’ coalition is – to what extent can the Lib Dems survive as a political force north of the border.

The party is enjoying the power and trappings of Government, and being relevant to national political discussion. It is easy to forget that Labour MPs used to walk out of the Chamber when it was the Lib Dems’ turn to ask Prime Minister Questions. Not any more, now they must face them from the opposition benches and even watch on occasionally as Nick Clegg takes to the lectern in the Prime Minister’s absence.

It has been, of course, considerably more bruising for Scottish Lib Dem MPs, wrestling with their consciences over votes on tuition fees, bedroom taxes and spending cuts, knowing that they have to compromise their principles and shred their constituency mandates in order to vote Yes. A commendable number have voted against their party and against their Government, but will this be enough if they have to face the voters again in 2015?

A recent poll by Lord Ashcroft has helped shine a light on the Scottish Lib Dems fortunes, and, well, it doesn’t look pretty.

The party currently holds a mighty eleven seats north of the border, a figure that far outweighs the number of seats they deserve based on national voteshare. These seats were the population for a poll of voting intentions, with a sample size of 1,151, and resulted in the following:

Voting intentions
SNP – 31%
Labour- 26%
Lib Dem – 20%
Conservative – 16%
Others – 7%

The analysis concluded that the Lib Dem seats would change hands as follows:

Aberdeenshire W & Kincardine – SNP GAIN

Argyll & Bute – SNP GAIN

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk – TORY GAIN

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross – SNP GAIN

East Dunbartonshire – LABOUR GAIN

Edinburgh West – LABOUR GAIN

North East Fife – SNP GAIN

Gordon – SNP GAIN

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey – SNP GAIN

Orkney & Shetland – LIB DEM HOLD

Ross, Skye & Lochaber – LIB DEM HOLD

A lot can happen between now and 2015 of course, not least a referendum that would mean zero Scottish MPs of any party. However, any suggestion that the success of Eastleigh could be replicated north of the border in 2015 appears to be a very faint one indeed. There is, seemingly, no escape from a very public evisceration, except through independence.

An independent Scotland would start with a clean slate, with an increased number of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament with relatively few experienced politicians ready to hit the ground running. There may be no space for Jo Swinson, Mike Crockart or Danny Alexander. Even Michael Moore, Charlie Kennedy and Menzies Campbell won’t be returning to the UK Parliament on the basis of this poll, but all eleven Scottish Lib Dems would quite reasonably expect to be voted back into power at an enlarged, empowered Holyrood in an independent Scotland.

Politics, they say, is the art of the possible and all too often is simply driven by the need for survival. There are nine Scottish Lib Dem MPs with coats on very shoogly pegs, all supposedly signed up to a party policy for home rule and federalism, and this high watermark of representation realistically won’t be reached again for decades.

In order to save their political careers, who would blame them if they became independence converts in the next year or so?