SO is Richard Leonard's decision to double down on Labour's opposition to indyref2 a tactical masterstroke? Will it, at the very least, stem any further losses? Let's be brutally honest: that does seem rather unlikely. As Einstein famously didn't say, the definition of insanity is doing exactly the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. All that Leonard has done is restate Labour's commitment to a boneheaded approach that has seen them steadily reduced from Scotland's dominant political force to third-party status, over the course of just six years.

And it's not as if they don't have the potential to fall even further. Recent Panelbase polls suggest that anything between one-third and close to one-half of voters who stuck with Labour in December 2019 want Scotland to become an independent country. It doesn't necessarily follow that those people will now seek a new political home, but it's a statement of the obvious that their patience and tolerance is being tested to the absolute limit. Indeed, it's reasonable to ask: do Labour even want these voters anymore?

The irony is that some of the most hardline anti-indyref zealots in Labour's ranks, such as Ian Murray, were also the most adamant that the former Corbyn leadership couldn't succeed because it wasn't listening to potential Labour voters in battleground constituencies in England. It's only in Scotland, it seems, that the response of the "moderates" to electoral failure is that the voters will have to change, not the party.

READ MORE: Tory MP claims Scottish Labour crisis is down to Richard Leonard's accent

Of course Murray would argue with a straight face that he's already demonstrated the perfect blueprint for bludgeoning pro-indy Labour voters into submission. He took a much more uncompromising approach than some of his colleagues in the general election, and he was also the only one to save his seat. Not a coincidence, he would say. I've shown how you save the Union, he would say. This does, naturally, rest on the rather fantastical implication that Murray single-handedly transformed his Edinburgh South constituency from something resembling Dundee into a unionist stronghold, and that it wasn't in fact true-blue Miss Jean Brodie territory long before he was even born.

Realistically, then, Labour voters aren't going to stop supporting independence because they're sternly instructed to. But in fairness, there's a case to be made that Labour need to have horizons that are broader than the retention of their December 2019 vote, because a 19% share isn't going to win them power in Holyrood, and will contribute practically nothing to the push to get Sir Keir Starmer into Downing Street. Is it possible that any electoral harm caused by a further descent into hardline unionism could be outweighed by the prize of winning back votes lost to the Tories since 2016? Again, that's very hard to imagine. One lesson Labour ought to have learned by now is that it's not possible to out-Tory the Tories. If a voter cares about Our Precious Union more than anything else, he or she will gravitate towards the most authentically British nationalist party, and despite all of their best efforts that will never be Labour. And even if it were somehow possible for Labour to win back every single Unionist voter they've lost to the Tories, where would that actually get them? Logically it would merely take them back to where they were in 2015, when the Tories had a historically poor result, but Labour still only kept one seat.

This is as painful a truth as the centrists presented the Corbynites with in England, but there is quite simply no Brit Nat route to a meaningful Labour revival in Scotland. The crucial voters they need to win back are the Yes supporters who abandoned them in the immediate aftermath of September 2014. That will not be easy, but it's entirely up to Labour whether it remains completely impossible. A softer stance on indyref2 is just one of several modernising steps that will be absolutely essential. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, Labour are in completely the wrong place.