ANOTHER week, another damning appraisal of Scottish Labour and their hapless leader Richard Leonard. A report by pro-Union think tank Our Scottish Future concluded the party is “in peril” and warned that all current polling points to seat losses for the party at next year’s Holyrood election.

While the report was not directly critical of Leonard, the failings it highlighted are happening on his watch. It would – and should – have been hard reading for the party. The report also said Scottish Labour politicians have a “limited” online audience compared to SNP figures and revealed that among 2019 Labour voters, Nicola Sturgeon has a net approval rating of +57.

“In Nicola Sturgeon, Labour are facing a popular and highly effective politician who is capable of consistently elevating her party.’’ Ouch. The fact this internal report was leaked to the media (which then provoked a Scottish Labour rammy online) shows just how fractured and embattled the party has become.

Leonard’s week went from bad to worse when it was reported yesterday that Keir Starmer has lost confidence in Leonard as leader in Scotland and does not believe Leonard is the best person to stop Labour’s drift into electoral oblivion. Starmer’s loss of faith is not surprising given the YouGov poll from last month which showed 60% of Scottish voters didn’t even know who Leonard was.

So how do you solve a problem like Richard Leonard? While many in his party are becoming increasingly vocal about the need to remove him, the obvious solution isn’t quite as simple as that. The dilemma facing Scottish Labour is whether to stick or twist.

In keeping Leonard, they are all but guaranteeing they will continue their years-long decline at next year’s election. It’s hard to motivate your base when they know they are being marched towards defeat.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer 'loses confidence' in Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

Yet the only other option available perhaps even less appealing than keeping a failing leader. Scottish Labour have gone through four leaders since 2014. If they could find a new leader in under a week, as the Scottish Tories did, they could rip off the plaster relatively painlessly.

It would still be an upheaval but one that could maybe set them on the right course. But that’s not how things go in Scottish Labour. The contest would be protracted, as it always is, and it would ignite tensions at a time when the party can ill-afford to be wasting energy on fighting each other.

It is incredibly demoralising for party members to see their leaders fail, quit or be pushed out, only then to watch the next suffer the same fate soon after.

The National: Richard Leonard

Then there is the small matter of who they would replace him with. Squint hard enough and you will see they do still have some talent on their benches. The problem is they are never the people Scottish Labour end up choosing. While there might not be a ready-made leader waiting in the wings, they do have MSPs who – in comparison to Leonard – are effective communicators and more obviously suited to leadership.

When they have played the same tired tune so many times and had the audience pelt them with tomatoes, you would think that they would conclude that it’s time for something different.

Anas Sarwar was defeated by Leonard during the last bitter leadership contest but his leadership ambitions haven’t gone away. Monica Lennon has energy and grit. She has argued that her party need to rethink their undemocratic stance on a second independence referendum, saying: “Decisions about Scotland’s future within the UK should ultimately be a matter for Holyrood, not Westminster’.”

READ MORE: Angus Robertson: This week’s been a massive fail for the Unionist parties

Lennon accepts that blocking indyref2 – against the wishes of the people of Scotland, as expressed in an election – is not a democratic position to take.

That may seem like a statement of the obvious and entirely uncontroversial. In Scottish Labour, it is akin to draping yourself in a Saltire and screaming “YOU YES YET?” from the front of an independence march. Her view on indyref2 is more in line with Scottish voters than her party’s current offering, but it is also one of the reasons her colleagues will continue to ignore her leadership potential.

There are no signs that Scottish Labour is nimble or brave enough to evolve and welcome a new leader that might appeal to their dwindling base. In the unlikely event that they did, that person still wouldn’t make enough impact ahead of the Holyrood election to save the seats they are almost certainly going to lose.

Scottish Labour don’t have problems to seek right now. Richard Leonard has taken a pounding this week but he is a symptom of a much wider issue. The once powerful party has grown tired and stale. Their year-on-year decline was in no way inevitable, but the demise of Richard Leonard now seems certain to be so.

They better get it right with his replacement because there’s not much further they can sink.