THE Labour Party’s Scottish accounting unit is looking for its ninth leader in 18 years. That’s a record that makes Italy seem like a paragon of stable government. The average length in office for an accounting unit leader is a mere two years. There are radioactive elements  with a longer half-life than a Labour leader in Scotland, but then  they’re also less toxic than  the Labour Party.

Although to be fair, for all the right of the party’s love of nuclear weapons on the Clyde, no-one has ever accused many of them of glowing in the dark – nor indeed of glowing with wit and charisma. The closest any of them ever get to glowing is when they get all red in the face and shouty about something the SNP have done.

However, Labour in Scotland’s propensity for ditching its leaders with even greater alacrity than it ditches socialism once it gets a sniff of power is not unrelated to the fact that the only politicians Scottish Labour politicians hate more than SNP politicians are other Scottish Labour politicians.

There are only two candidates for the latest two-year gig. In line with Labour’s commitment to diversity and social inclusion, both are middle-aged, middle-class men who were privately educated. First up is a Central Scotland list MSP called Richard Leonard. There was  a strong and emphatic response to his announcement that he was standing as leader of Labour’s Scottish accounting unit.

All over the country people went, “Who?”, Leonard’s biggest problem being that not many people had heard of him until last week.  A newspaper report over the weekend said that some of his opponents on the right of the party had suggested that having a Scottish leader who had an English accent and who had attended a posh fee-paying school wasn’t really the best way to revive Labour in the working-class districts of Glasgow or Dundee.

This set off the usual paroxysms of accusations of vile nattery from the usual British nationalist suspects on social media, all of whom conveniently overlooked the fact that the objections to Leonard’s accent were coming from within the Labour Party. But then, doing something bad and then blaming the SNP for it has been Labour’s modus operandi in Scotland for decades now. Why change a winning formula, eh? Oh right. It’s because they are not winning. And neither will Leonard, I expect, for reasons which have nothing to do  with his accent.

The other candidate is the politically shape-shifting Glasgow list MSP Anas Sarwar. Sarwar was formerly the hereditary MP for Govan/Glasgow Central, and then, having been resoundingly rejected by the sensible people of the south bank of the Clyde, managed to wangle his way to the top of the Labour’s regional list for Glasgow. He used to be a Blairite, but now claims to be a passionate supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

If you think he is the answer to Labour’s problems in Scotland, you probably also think that the solution to the financial crisis lies in creating hundreds of clones of Fred Goodwin or that Nigel Farage is the best person to save us from Brexit.

Announcing his candidacy, Sarwar said he was ready to unite Labour in Scotland now that the party has been “revitalised”. The truth is that Labour managed to gain fewer than 10,000 extra votes in this year’s General Election compared to its catastrophic performance in 2015, all during a period when  Anas Sarwar was a central figure  in spreading the Labour message  in Scotland.

Labour only managed to make some gains in terms of seats because SNP voters didn’t turn out. But they didn’t put their faith in the Labour Party, they just stayed at home. Saying that Labour has been revitalised because SNP support was suffering from an attack of apathy is a bit like claiming that you’re  no longer plunging off a cliff  because fewer people have turned out to watch.

Labour in Scotland are  no closer to regaining their  once-dominant position,  and no change of leadership is going to address the underlying problems faced by the party. That problem  is that Labour in Scotland is fundamentally a British nationalist party which is in denial about its own nationalism.

And if you’re going to vote for a British nationalist party, you might as well vote for the self-avowed British nationalists in the Tories. Labour likes to tell itself it’s opposed to nationalism, but it remains shackled to unconditional support for the British state, an essentially nationalist project.

It is true that Scottish working-class people have more in common with working-class people in Doncaster and Leicester than they do with the bosses and the bankers, but they also have every bit as much in common with working- class people in Dublin or Limerick.

The Scottish constitutional debate is not a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism, it’s a debate between two nationalisms: British nationalism and Scottish nationalism. If Labour really was a non-nationalist party, it would be neutral on the constitutional issue.

A non-nationalist Labour in Scotland would not rigidly back  the British state and all it stands for irrespective of how that impacts on Scotland.

Labour’s difficulties in Scotland have more to do with the fact that everyone except the Labour Party can see that it’s deluding itself on the question of nationalism, and no change of leadership is going to address that.