ALMOST five years have elapsed since the first referendum on Scottish independence, yet it still continues to shape Scotland’s political landscape. Few among even the most committed Yes supporters could have foreseen how much the constitutional debate would continue to dominate Scottish politics, and this without independence having been gained.

And no matter how much they may try to deny or to deflect, even the most implacable supporters of the Union must now recognise that the independence question remains the only game in town. They may lament this loudly and rend their garments about it and shout about getting on with the day job, but the question of Scotland’s independence is consuming the Union’s main protagonists and their baggage handlers one by one.

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Senior Tories have spent most of the past three years in despair at Theresa May for her unyielding and mechanical approach to taking advice and forming personal relationships during this turbulent Brexit process. They ridicule her by comparing her to a robot. The same affliction seems to have affected the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson.

“Ms Davidson, what do you think of the escalating diplomatic stand-off between the US and Iran?”

“There shall be no second referendum.”

At what point do Davidson and her advisers realise that nothing will change significantly in Scotland until there is a second referendum on independence? What are they afraid of? They seem convinced that a comfortable majority of Scottish voters would back the Union – despite all that has happened these past five years. So why have they become so obsessed about opposing one? A second victory for Better Together would permit us all to then “get on with the day job”, the favoured locution of Davidson and one which has come to represent her entire policy output.

The National: Ruth Davidson's Scottish Tories saw their vote share fall in the European electionsRuth Davidson's Scottish Tories saw their vote share fall in the European elections

The European election results completed an electoral clean sweep for the SNP in Scotland. It is the political equivalent of football’s fabled quadruple. Since 2014, the SNP have triumphed overwhelmingly in one Holyrood election, two Westminster ones, a local authority one and now the European polls. The support for Scotland’s main party of independence has remained strong throughout this period. No other major UK political party can say the same. It is a clear mandate for a second independence referendum.

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We are still digesting the main stories from the results of the European elections and I suspect that they will continue to resonate and to cause ripples up to and beyond the Tory leadership contest. As has been the case for almost five years now, following a major election a dramatically different picture has been evident in Scotland, carrying its own nuances. As ever, it proved too subtle for the BBC.

South of the Border the European results merely confirmed what we all knew: Brexit has caused England to become hopelessly divided in every aspect of its being – socially, culturally and politically. The results were not a great leap forward for supporters of Brexit (pro-Remain parties fared significantly better). They did, though, carry a warning to both the Tories and Labour to formulate a digestible and honest policy on Brexit. If a second referendum may be required to bring this wretched chapter in British politics to its conclusion, then so be it.

In Scotland, the European results were less about frustration with Brexit than about the enduring hegemony of the SNP. It’s probably too early to speculate how much of the party’s latest overwhelming success owed to Labour voters unhappy with their party’s slipshod approach to Brexit – not much, I suspect. The Labour Party in Scotland has already haemorrhaged huge numbers of its former supporters to the SNP and has become a pale husk because of it.

How many more can it lose to the SNP? And how many committed Brexiteers among the SNP’s traditional supporters decided, temporarily, to find succour in the arms of the Brexit Party for one night? Again, I suspect not that many. The SNP’s historic success in this election owed as much to its commitment to an independent Scotland as it did to its clear and unambiguous stance on Europe.

And what can we say about the further winnowing of the Labour Party’s vote in Scotland? So spectacular and complete was its latest collapse north of the Border that it can’t simply be blamed on the UK-wide dissatisfaction with the Westminster leadership’s Brexit ineptitude. Its fifth placing in the European election in Scotland is simply the latest low-water mark in a 10-year downward trajectory. A succession of weak leaders who chose crazily to wrap themselves in the folds of the Union Jack has contributed to this.

Those of us who had high hopes for the latest incumbent, Richard Leonard, quickly had them dashed as it began to emerge that he was an even more hapless marionette of London Labour than any of his predecessors. It remains to be seen if the resignation of Neil Findlay, his influential frontbench spokesman on health, will be followed by many others. Already, his colleague Daniel Johnson has quit as justice spokesperson.

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Findlay hinted at a toxic culture of briefing and betrayal within the Holyrood group and beyond in his resignation. He also acknowledged that the ongoing question of Scotland’s constitutional future must be faced by Labour in Scotland. In the next few days pressure will build for Leonard to step down too. His sudden support for Brexit to go back to the people was further proof that the relationship between Westminster Labour and Holyrood Labour proceeds on a master and serf basis. Those who are seeking his removal, though, should pause and reflect. Those toxic forces hinted at by Findlay have their own champion as leader in mind. If they were to get their way, it really would be the end of Labour in Scotland.

The Labour Party in Scotland has been on the wrong side of the constitutional debate in this country and has been consumed by it. This doesn’t, of itself, explain how abject its decline has been, though.

It’s the manner and tone of its opposition to Scottish independence that has alienated many of its former members. The party would be foolish to interpret the European result as a mere consequence of Jeremy Corbyn’s weakness on Brexit. Rather, it must fashion a realistic and more pragmatic position on Scottish independence.

The European election showed it has nothing much more to lose in Scotland by doing so. And in an independent Scotland, as the one party offering compassionate and modern Socialism, it has everything to gain.