Scottish Labour’s turnover of leaders since 2007 provides opponents with legitimate sport, best taken on the chin. The party that delivered a Scottish Parliament has found great difficulty in adapting to opposition within it.
However, there is nothing that cannot be recovered from if the need exists – and today’s Scotland, as much as in any other period, needs the party which exists to advance the interests of working people, their families and communities.
While some former Labour voters have moved towards nationalism, particularly because of the 2014 polarisation, many more are open to persuasion if a credible alternative presents itself.
The Nationalists have already stated that they want a mandate to demand a second independence referendum. Yet polling suggests this is far from the highest priority for most Scottish voters.
Labour’s success or failure will depend on articulating the message that a Scottish government can and should do much, much better with its current responsibilities – which must be its sole focus for the next four years.
There is no need to get bogged down in arguments about a second referendum that will not and should not happen within the timeframe of post-pandemic recovery, as some of the more thoughtful Nationalists acknowledge.
What happens thereafter is a long way off and meanwhile trying to turn a pandemic election into a referendum on a referendum can, in capable hands, be exposed as a cynical reflection of misguided priorities. For Scotland’s sake, let’s hope so.