VIEWED from the United States – amidst the chaos of Trump’s White House and the disintegration of a once-decent Republican Party – the actions of the Tory Party in Westminster, its beleaguered Prime Minister and the treacherous behaviour of members of her Cabinet looks even more remarkable, representing an even greater threat to the internal stability and international credibility of Britain.

A shambolic Brexit, unfortunately still a work in progress, is a monumental distraction and has overwhelmed people’s ability to look ahead. The troubled and turbulent times sweeping through Western democracies have created a fragile and volatile electorate, which shouldn’t be ignored. This is making the discussion of Britain and Scotland’s future more complex, confused and unpredictable.

There are no longer any easy certainties of outcome, but four political objectives stand out as far as the future of Britain is concerned, and where the Labour Party are best placed to lead and deliver, in partnership with other parties.

First, winning the next General Election is vital to stop Britain’s decline and refocus on a progressive agenda. To achieve this, it must widen its electoral base and integrate young and old, and reach out to left-behind and disconnected Brexit voters who were patronised and exploited by the fanatics in Ukip and the Conservative Party.

Second, Britain must remain in the European Union or, as a minimum, retain membership of both the single market and the customs union. This is also the only answer to the Ireland question, despite the rants of Boris Johnson.

Third, Scotland, with limited real political or constitutional power, remains in a Britain dominated by the ideas of and the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament. Federalism is the only sustainable alternative to independence and holds out the prospect of a second referendum which could offer Scots a real choice rather than just an opportunity to say No.

Fourth, a long-term solution to the Scotland question is not peripheral to the future of Britain or, as some see it, an irritating distraction, which will be swept away if we can only achieve socialism in our time! The Scotland question will not go away. It is inextricably linked to politics in this new age and should transcend the politics of right and left. Our constitutional thinking in Britain is of another century.

On the face of it, these objectives look relevant and challenging, but are they achievable?

Widening electoral support

Britain is a deeply divided country with a sense of purpose and vision sadly lacking. Economic nationalism and unrestrained ideology fire Tory lust for a trade free-for-all post Brexit. A once-great party is being hollowed out by political cowardice, weak leadership and a 30-year civil war within the party over Europe. To paraphrase a leader of a once-great party, never in the field of political endeavour has so much damage been done to party and country by so few to so many.

Despite the chaos caused by Theresa May and her Government and their handling of Brexit, opinion polls show the Labour Party running neck and neck with the Tories. There are questions to be asked about why Labour isn’t pulling ahead. Politics is more complex and the mood of Britain reflects this. The demographics suggest that older people are not shifting their allegiances, possibly reflecting Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy of concentrating on young people.

Older people are more risk averse and maybe hesitant to change amid the confusion of Brexit. They may also be anxious about some of the economic ideas behind Labour’s possible manifesto for the next election. There is nothing wrong with a radical agenda but this needs to be accompanied by an electoral strategy that motivates more young people to vote, gains the confidence of older voters and, unlike the empty promises of the Brexiteers, addresses the “left-behind” and “disillusioned” with serious and honest promises – acknowledging that many of them were protesting against the state of Britain when they voted in the referendum, not the state of the European Union!

Staying in or close to the EU

Corbyn’s decision to negotiate a new customs union with the EU is to be welcomed warmly. It is a decision that increases the pressure on Theresa May to dump the political baggage that is dragging her under. Staying in or around the single market should be the next bold step. Most Labour voters, trade unionists, party members and much of the country support retaining membership of the EU. While this may be a difficult short-term objective, remaining in a customs union keeps open the possibility of rejoining the EU at a later point in the lifetime of a future Labour government.

This step forward is also important for Labour in Scotland. A hard Tory Brexit or a weak Labour campaign to prevent this would strengthen the position of the SNP Government, who are understandably pro-EU. A majority of Scots voters wanted to Remain. This battle isn’t over. The closer Labour stays to the EU, the more difficult it is for the SNP to exploit the issue. That is why retaining membership of the single market and the customs union is such an important part of any political strategy for Scotland.

Federalism is a solution and a sound strategy

There is no escape in Scotland from the challenge of the constitutional question. Since the independence referendum in 2014, the level of popular support for independence has changed very little. While another referendum is some way off, there is no doubt it will happen. Labour have to stop looking the other way, hoping the issue will disappear. It won’t. Instead the party have to embrace federalism, the only alternative to independence.

After nearly 11 years of SNP political dominance, Scots are not yet convinced of the merits of leaving the UK. There is clearly a window of opportunity for Labour if they become positive and less defensive about the whole issue and take federalism seriously. To date, this isn’t happening. Recent comments from the party suggest Corbyn is pouring cold water on federalism, with one spokesperson suggesting “federalism was an unhelpful label” and “there were other priorities”. There is no constitutional alternative. It makes no sense, after the helpful interventions of Gordon Brown and Kezia Dugdale, which have been largely ignored, for the whole idea to have been shelved.

Polls continue to show a divided Scotland. Scots may have reached a point where federalism could be an attractive way forward. Despite a post-Brexit devolution task force being set up in March last year, there was no mention of federalism in the statement issued after the meeting!

Federalism deserves a serious airing. Labour should be less concerned with the timing of a second independence referendum and instead put all their efforts into a federal alternative as the way forward – and as the possible basis of a second question on the next ballot paper whenever it happens. The status quo is not an option for Scotland’s future.

The Scotland question

A volatile and unpredictable electorate is dangerous territory. Scots want to remain in the EU. There has been little change in support for independence. The SNP are still dominant, despite a much heralded attack on their education and health policies, which was totally justified but made little impact. The SNP have been in power for nearly 11 years and their poll ratings remain steady.

For all those reasons, Labour in the UK and in Scotland must take the SNP and independence seriously, if only to defeat them. Scotland has changed forever and will not return to the days when it was only another part of Britain. Modern Scotland cannot be viewed through the prism of old Britain.

It is important to remember that, four years after the 2014 referendum, significant support exists for independence. The issue of risk dominated the last referendum and was a significant factor in the No campaign’s victory. Next time, if we leave the EU, staying with Britain may carry a much greater risk. The SNP are still regarded as Scotland’s party and a failure by Labour to win the next Westminster elections could drive Labour voters towards supporting independence more so than the SNP.

It was never likely that voting for Brexit would in itself change the voting intentions of Scots on the Scotland question. The real test will come when the exit happens and the nightmare consequences begin. In the event of a hard Brexit, this may happen around 2020-22.

Another factor that may weigh heavily with Scots is the fact that in 2014, it was “buy one, get one free”. The terms of the contract have changed. Vote to stay in the UK next time around, and you don’t get the EU!

Labour have to recognise the fact that party supporters may vote for the party in elections but vote for independence in referenda. There was much talk about a People’s Constitutional Convention, but no progress has been made. Work on this needs to happen now. The focus on English regional government and English local government reform are priorities at Westminster, but not in Scotland.

Let us not make the same mistake twice. Labour did not offer an effective campaign to keep us in the EU, and some people argue that this is the reason why we are leaving. It would look, in the spirit of Oscar Wilde, like carelessness, if Scotland, left the UK because Labour didn’t do enough!

The Tories can’t be trusted with the future of Britain or of Scotland. The PM’s “Britain Alone” future – and her delusional comments about “Brexit making the UK stronger”– threaten all of us. Her Brussels policy grab confirms Wales and Scotland don’t figure. The Welsh and Scottish governments should oppose the Withdrawal Bill.

Donald Trump has just been voted the worst American president ever by a group of distinguished presidential historians. Theresa May seems well placed to achieve similar notoriety in her role as Prime Minister.