IN 2007, 10 years on from the historic Scotland White Paper published in 1997, Tom Brown and myself co-authored Scotland: The Road Divides. We said “that the maintenance of Scotland within the Union can only be achieved if politicians across the Unionist spectrum are prepared to be open minded, face up to uncomfortable truths, shed outdated prejudices, realise the need for new political ideas and accept pragmatic solutions”.

We added: “The party that delivered devolution has not come to terms with its consequences” and that “Labour should be redefining its mission in post-devolution Scotland, rethinking the party’s identity and whether it should be more Scottish”.

And we asked: “Does it want to create a distinctive political culture and identity — or does it want to continue to look over its shoulder to Westminster?”

Sadly, the questions remain unanswered and the ideas hinted at have largely been ignored.

First Minister Alex Salmond set out the challenge, in his inaugural speech at Holyrood on May 23 2007, when he said: “Scotland’s new politics starts now.”

Our Changing World

THIS of course pre-dated the financial and economic crisis of 2008, the rise of right wing Populism in Western Democracies, the collapse of support for traditional parties — in 1955, 98 per cent of the population voted Labour or Conservative, the figure for 2015 was 39 per cent — and the emergence of nationality and identity politics. A series of political earthquakes in Scotland has transformed the landscape and the SNP — both populist and nationalist — continues to dominate all levels of politics.

Throughout Britain, Europe, and the US, the anger, the anxieties, and fears and resentment of voters grew as inequality deepened and millions of people struggled to cope with austerity and felt excluded. A bewildering pace of change has engulfed our politics and created a volatile, and fragile electorate, where traditional allegiances and loyalties and other certainties have been shredded.

The world of politics has changed forever. Life has evolved. Society is more complex and is immersed in a digital revolution. Socialism and social democracy are under attack throughout the European Union. The very idea of Democracy is being questioned. Scotland has become a very different nation wrapped up in a new agenda. Remarkably, though, and often defiantly, Labour in Scotland, still seems gripped by the past and seems unable to understand the crisis engulfing the party, and is worryingly oblivious to the need for an urgent reinvention of itself, if it is to survive as a modern political force.

Labour’s decline

LABOUR'S decline has been in the making for a very long time. There has been a failure to adapt to the new realities of a more confident and questioning Scotland and a declining and disunited kingdom. Setting aside the constitutional question, which has always been difficult for the party, Labour sees the problems and challenges of 21st century Scotland through the prism of 20th century Westminster politics: Scotland has found its identity but the Labour party is struggling to find theirs.

More in sorrow and bewilderment than in anger and resentment, people would like to vote Labour, but now question who or what the party stands for! Deep and enduring historical ties have been shattered, decades of loyalty have disappeared and people are genuinely perplexed as to how the party has fallen so far behind and so quickly.

Labour must find a way back, but this will be difficult. How does a political party reinvent itself?

Facing the Future

THE forthcoming election should be used as a progressive platform. Squeezed between the SNP and Nationalism and the Tories and Unionism, the Labour party must escape the suffocating agenda of Westminster and start to talk up a narrative for the new Scotland which addresses the issues people are concerned about including the constitution: and is presented in a different tone, style, language and is less angry in its outlook and delivery.

So where does the party start?

By being credible, by being honest on the constitutional question and recognising the party is split, but also acknowledging the simple fact that it will be Labour voters who will ultimately decide Scotland’s future in what is a bitterly divided country, split 50/50 on the big issue.

Campaigning honestly about Brexit and spelling out its catastrophic consequences for Scotland and being unapologetic about Scotland’s remain credentials and unconvinced that Brexit is inevitable.

Explaining what federalism and four nation politics looks like.

Could this be a reality or are we merely whistling in the dark?

Showing our broader humanity, our internationalism, and our embrace of “difference” and diversity.

Arguing for an Independent Labour Party (ILP) in Scotland — if the party is ever to become the voice of Scotland, in or out of the Union.

Making sense of nationality and identity politics. People are entitled to have multiple identities.

Questioning our unconditional love affair with the old Union. England does need a voice but not by dominating Westminster. And accepting the politics of England and Scotland are diverging: Brexit is an England phenomenon and founded on the lure of greatness, being a poor European team player, immersed in sentiment and nostalgia of days gone by, an historic sense of exceptionalism, and increasingly drifting to the right on a wave of economic nationalism as lavish embrace of the old Union doesn’t make sense.

Spelling out the challenges of automation, technology, the digital revolution and robotics and their impact on jobs and skills in Scotland.

Campaigning against the excesses of market forces and instead promoting the common good.

Debunking the idea and the impression that being a proud Scot is incompatible with being a good socialist or social democrat.

Acknowledging the fact that the worst is yet to come if a Theresa May landslide fans the flames of further constitutional unrest in Scotland and her authoritarianism and economic isolation find little favour.

Understanding the need to make ambition and aspiration matter, by building a mood, momentum and a movement that once again captures the imagination of Scots.

Countering the widely-held perception that we don’t appear to be Scottish enough and rarely act as the voice of Scotland.

Remembering the Tories are also our political opponents especially, the right-wing group, of fanatical and delusional Tory and UKIP Brexiteers who see the breakup of the Union and the catastrophic economic consequences for Scotland and Britain as a price well worth paying for their madness.

Supporting democracy by easing our opposition to a second referendum. It is going to happen sometime and trying to avoid it will not defeat independence or make it go away but instead, could hold out the prospect of an alternative way forward; And making inequality, which is poisoning our society, the issue of our time. Yes, the big economic levers are at Westminster but we are making little impact in health, education, and public services in Scotland. Representing working people in Parliament and pursuing a fair and just society, were Labour’s founding priorities in 1900.

On reflection, this is not the stuff of Einstein, but a candid and quite basic attempt to help recast Labour’s mind set and help reinvent a party with style and substance, which doesn’t sell out its soul or the great principles upon which the party was built and which remain as relevant and credible today as they were in 1900. But at the heart of Labour’s malaise, there are two vital issues to be tackled. What does the party stand for? What is Scotland’s future relationship with the Union?

Creed and Constitution

AFTER the disaster of 1931, when the Labour government, overwhelmed by financial crisis, had suffered a political disintegration from which it took many years to recover, R H Tawney talked about the future of the party.

He believed the party’s fundamental problem was its “lack of a creed.” He argued this was the basis of all its other difficulties. A creed is not a rigid doctrine but “a common conception of the ends of political action, and of a means of achieving them, based on a common view of the life proper to human beings, and of the steps required at any moment more nearly to attain it”. This, he added, required a firm intellectual and moral foundation, without which the party would lose its way.

Setting aside the dated language, the lack of a ‘creed’ is fundamental to Scottish Labour’s difficulties. The party has lost its way. Talking about “our values” in a vacuous way just underlines the emptiness and the lack of ideas generally in Scottish politics. Labour can only flourish when it offers something that people could believe in.

The Scotland question is more complex and remains a debate that divides the Labour party and which shows no signs of offering up a solution or an accommodation.

This issue though lies at the heart of Labour’s troubles, and without credible arguments or ideas the party will remain torn between independence and a Unionism that often “reluctantly” delivers more policies but little real power: losing voters to the Tories and the SNP could be repeated on June 8.

A Federal constitution for Britain — the only real alternative — goes largely unnoticed, has failed to gain any traction, and is viewed by many as too little and too late.

The prospects of federalism and a new written constitution emerging from Westminster any time soon, and supported by either Labour or the Tories, are hard to imagine.

The history of Labour’s involvement with the relationship between Scotland and the Union tells you everything about the current difficulties and reminds everyone that without a resolution of this issue, the credibility of Labour as a political force will continue to diminish. Re-engaging with the constitutional debate in a more positive way, is the only way back, and the key to unlocking the hearts and minds of many Scots.

Labour’s understandable desire to get back to debating the big issues, such as education and health, will be frustrated if they can-not find a way through the less comfortable undergrowth of the constitution, which has marginalised any serious policy debate in Scotland for some years now and which is likely to dominate the general election. It won’t go away.

Time for Action

BREAKING free from the past, but retaining timeless principles and the history that fired the party and shaped its creed, is the way forward. The nearly three quarters of a million people who voted Labour in the SNP landslide in 2015 deserve a bigger stake in Scotland’s future and a more positive party.