By Kirsten Campbell
BBC Scotland political correspondent
I have never met anyone who does not like John Swinney.
He is a nice man, an honourable man, a man who won the support of 84% of his party when he was challenged for the leadership last year.
He is a good organiser and seemed to increase in stature when he was successful in reforming the SNP's constitution at a special conference just this spring.
At the time, activists, angered by public sniping about the changes, leapt to his defence.
But that newfound loyalty was not to last.
Performances in the chamber were not a strong point for Swinney
Support for Mr Swinney has now crumbled.
John Swinney's challenge as party leader was to persuade voters that the SNP was a worthy party of government and that he was up to the job of first minister.
He believed if he could win the trust of the electorate, he could convince them that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation.
It was a two-pronged message which many fundamentalists in his own party believed was flawed and which did not capture the public's imagination at the ballot box.
Support for the SNP has fallen at the last three elections.
The party's share of the vote at the recent European poll fell below 20% for the first time since 1987.
Far from beating Labour as John Swinney had predicted, the party risked being overtaken by the Tories.
In 2003, despite a slick campaign, the party lost eight seats at Holyrood.
In the Westminster elections in 2001 it returned five MPs, one less than in 1997. It was that electoral failure that was at the root of Mr Swinney's problems.
Loyalists argued that as the party most closely associated with home rule, the SNP was suffering because of public disillusion with devolution.
They also pointed to the new political landscape in Scotland, where several parties were competing for every vote.
That, they claim, was a problem for the party as a whole, not the leader in particular. And they say persistent back-biting and infighting did the SNP no good.
But critics insist a more charismatic leader would inspire more support.
John Swinney has often been compared to a bank manager, a trustworthy if dull figure.
There was a feeling that a change of direction was required - John Swinney might have led that change, but he is now that change
His charm and humour in person does not come across readily on television or in parliament.
He is, however, a man of principle, having declined to accept the pay rise which goes with being the leader of the main opposition party in the Scottish Parliament.
As a committee convener, he won a joint award with Henry McLeish for co-operation on enterprise.
But this consensual approach has irritated his critics, who believe an opposition should be more confrontational and more effective at holding the executive to account.
Mr Swinney's performance at First Minister's Questions has disappointed many in his party, though to be fair his predecessor, the notoriously charismatic Alex Salmond, didn't particularly shine in that arena either.
So the SNP is at a crossroads.
There was an overwhelming feeling within the party that a change of direction was required.
John Swinney might have led that change, but he is now that change.