THE results suggested by the latest Ashcroft poll are truly remarkable ... but the SNP are right to give them a relatively muted response.

There is, as the cliche goes, only one poll that counts, and nothing can or should be taken for granted. There must never be the slightest suggestion of complacency or smugness.

That said, it must be hard to resist celebrating a poll that suggests so decisively an election result that would provide a historic landslide in Scotland for a party that was defeated less than nine months ago in the most important campaign of its life.

If Ashcroft is correct, the Labour party will be all but wiped off the Scottish political map. At present the party’s new leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, looks as if he could hold on to his seat, although only just. However, if the SNP surge continues at its present rate even that could be unlikely.

And a lead of just one per cent (and some interpretations of Ashcroft’s figures make that lead lower, or eradicate it altogether) is hardly much comfort to a party that little more than a decade ago held vast swathes of Scotland in its grip.

The poll is dire for Labour and dire for Murphy. The Labour leader in Scotland admitted as much last night, although he once again put forward the argument he still desperately hopes will sway voters: that a vote for the SNP makes it more likely that David Cameron will keep the keys to Number 10 Downing Street.

It is not an argument that has picked up much traction, largely because it flies in the face of the Scottish experience.

For decades this country has proved resistant to the Conservative party’s appeal for its votes, and yet we have suffered at the hands of Tory governments.

As unpersuasive as Murphy’s main argument self-evidently is, it is hard to see what else he has at his disposal.

No-one can criticise him for lacking energy. He has rarely been out of the newspapers or off our television screens since his election. But a selection of random promises – employing 1,000 more nurses, renationalising the railways, relaxing the drink ban at football matches – have failed to hold back the SNP tide. Indeed, they evidence suggests they have had the opposite effect.

The Ashcroft poll holds little good news for the other pro-union parties. It suggests the LibDems will lose Charles Kennedy’s seat. It sees no prospect of a Conservative improvement, and suggests the party’s only Conservative MP David Mundell is in real danger of losing his seat.

But it is Labour who are looking into the abyss, and they have further to fall. The seats now held by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are among those tipped to be lost.

Labour look as if they are about to be cast into the political wilderness in Scotland. Perhaps their biggest tragedy is that, despite endless promises that they had learned the lessons of previous defeats, the party stubbornly show no signs of understanding why they find themselves in this position, far less of having a strategy to avoid disaster.