MY first vote at a General Election was in the Labour landslide of 1997. I was a student at Stirling University and had been doing my bit as a fairly new SNP member to try and get George Reid elected in the neighbouring Ochil constituency.   

My own vote was in Stirling however and I cast it for the SNP candidate Ewan Dow, the then depute leader of Perth and Kinross Council. Ewan – now a good friend - would probably admit that his campaign was a bit of a sideshow to the contest between the then Tory MP Michael Forsyth and Labour’s Anne McGuire, who went on to win and in so doing, helped ensure a Tory wipeout in Scotland.

I mention all this for one reason - in the footage of the Stirling declaration that evening, Anne McGuire and her husband were joined on stage by a member of her campaign team. He was completely anonymous at the time but if you look closely, the man is clearly recognisable today as a young Richard Leonard.  

If you were being unkind to large parts of the Scottish electorate you could say that Leonard still remains completely anonymous. That’s certainly the concern of the Labour MSPs and Lords currently agitating for him to ‘do a Carlaw’ and step down as leader.  

READ MORE: More Labour peers call on Richard Leonard to step down as Scottish leader

Being told by James Kelly of all people that you’re rubbish at your job is bound to sting a bit. However, with a matter of months until the next Holyrood election and Labour still anchored firmly in third place, the panic amongst Labour’s remaining MSPs about their prospects of re-election is palpable.  

Leadership – whether Leonard’s or the cumulative effects of the leadership of those who came before him – remains a big problem for Scottish Labour. Yet still, is there really anyone out there in the party – elected to Holyrood or otherwise – who could do any better?  

In Richard Leonard, Johann Lamont, Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy, Labour has tried just about every combination of personality and outlook it can call upon. If none of those leaders could shift the dial in the past, then why on earth would yet another candidate cut from the same ‘SNPbad’ and ‘No to indyref2’ cloth alter their present or future reality either?                   

This also remains a problem for the Scottish Tories, despite their recent changing of the guard. There’s some irony that both halves of the Scottish Tory leadership ‘dream team’ are currently stuck in parliaments that neither of them want to be in. It will certainly add spice to the exchanges between the SNP group of MPs and the rump of Scottish Tories at Westminster as Douglas Ross tries to cultivate the impression of being someone with leadership status while speaking as a lowly backbencher.  

READ MORE: Gerry Hassan: Scottish Labour faces the future and the rocks

As Ross demonstrates, though, changing a leader doesn’t give a guarantee that things change for the better. The First Minister has not been slow to point out the inconsistency of a stand-in Tory leader lecturing others about democracy and accountability while herself accepting a berth in a House of Lords far removed from either. Partly in consequence, Davidson – always more media creation than genuine talent – has come off decidedly the worse in each of her engagements with the FM so far.  

You’d expect any new leader to have a dynamic plan for their first 100 days and I’m sure that Ross is no exception. Who would have thought though that it would involve snubbing a VJ Day commemoration to run the line at a football match; getting called out by NFU Scotland for wilfully misrepresenting their views; and appointing a political adviser who found Brexit ‘too hard’ to form her own opinion on?  

Ultimately, though, leadership woes and personality struggles are only part of the issue for Labour and the Tories, which have long been stuck in a rut in Scotland of defining themselves by what they are against rather than anything much that they might be for. 

The challenge that negativity presents in terms of either party charting a way into government is obvious. More importantly, as even Westminster Tories begin to openly contemplate how unsustainable their opposition to a future indyref is now becoming, the challenge that negativity presents for them in making a positive case for the Union when they are inevitably called upon to do so after next May is also obvious.