EVERY time the British state is threatened by those it likes to pretend are raving nats with blue-painted faces waving claymores on the streets of Coatbridge, out come the usual defence strategies. Labour play the good cop to the Tories’ bad cop in Brexit the movie, but they’re both cops who are corrupt and who are only interested in getting a conviction without caring about justice. Both cops are equally bad, just playing their roles in order to get what they want.

First and foremost is the stick that’s wielded by the bad cops. They tell us Scotland is too poor, and the British state will do its utmost to ensure that we get even poorer if we dare to challenge its authority. They tell us Scotland isn’t capable of grown-up politics, since it has no culture or identity other than an atavistic hatred of the English.

They tell us that Scotland is a basket case and that means we need to remain under the administration of the British state which has woven us the basket. They tell us no-one wants us and we’re lucky to have them, because Scotland is the only thing in the universe which Westminster Conservatives throw billions of pounds at out of pure altruism. Scottish Unionism is the belief that the Tories love nothing more than giving free money to a country that doesn’t vote for them.

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And then there’s the cop with the carrot. It’s a very small carrot, which is fair enough as it’s a tiny carrot being waved by a party that’s getting smaller and smaller with every passing day.

Labour are getting as small and insignificant as the commitment to substantial devolution that it displayed in the Smith Commission negotiations, which, if nothing else, is a perfect demonstration of karma in action. With a second independence referendum now as much of a certainty as the fact Labour in Scotland will continue to blame the SNP for everything up to and including the downfall of the Mayan civilisation, the carrot waving has recommenced in earnest.

Labour’s carrot is a carrot on a stick that’s forever out of reach. And if we ever managed to grasp it, we’d discover that it is in fact an imaginary carrot. It’s a carrot with as much plausible reality as the Bugs Bunny that chews on them in animations, but without the nuanced wit or intelligence of a children’s cartoon. It’s a fictional cartoon carrot. It’s a Platonic carrot, the idea of a carrot without any of the substance. But it’s a carrot-shaped idea nonetheless and it gets waved in front of Scotland every time the British state fears that independence might be gaining traction.

That carrot is Labour’s favourite f-word – federalism.

A federal UK isn’t going to happen. It’s got the same probability of occurrence as Theresa May standing up and telling the country that she was wrong, that this Brexit thing is a crazy idea, that she’s really sorry about the demonising immigrants stuff, not giving Scotland a say, putting a bomb under the Irish peace process, and then giving straight answers to straight questions at the press call that followed.

A federal UK didn’t happen after the last independence referendum, despite Gordie Broon stomping up and down the country telling invited audiences of Labour members and journalists that he personally would hold the leaders of the main parties to account. A federal UK didn’t happen after the British establishment was given the scare of its life by a Scottish independence movement that very nearly defeated it. It’s not going to happen now. It’s too late. It’s not that the federal ship has sailed; it was never built in the first place. Rather like the warships that the MoD is always promising to build on the Clyde.

Kezia Dugdale has turned into the political equivalent of a person who is staking their mortgage on tracking down a leprechaun and finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She insists that Labour in Scotland are the only party that want a Scotland that’s part of both the EU and the UK, and now she says she’s planning a constitutional convention to discuss federalism.

She’d be as well saying that Labour’s policy is to offer free mammoth rides to pensioners and their next manifesto will contain a commitment to extending the voting franchise to citizens of Narnia, which is about the only way they’ll ever find anyone to vote for them.

Labour are retreating into fantasy politics. They’re a distraction from the realities of the choices that Scotland faces. In the real world, we can’t be both a part of the UK and a part of the EU. In the real world, we will never be offered federalism by a UK that fetishises the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.

The Tories aren’t interested. There is no demand in England for federalism. Even Labour’s own UK leadership aren’t interested.

If Labour in Scotland hope to rescue themselves, if they hope to avoid oblivion in May’s council elections, if they hope to remain a relevant force in Scottish politics, the first step is for them to develop policies for Scotland in the real world, and not a Scotland that only exists in their imagination. It’s time they stopped telling us the bedtime story of the federalism fairy.