AS the major issues arrive and depart around them the Labour Party in Scotland is consigned to the role of train-spotters. A little over 13 years ago they were Scotland’s traditional party of government with more seats than the SNP and the Tories combined. Now, they are an electoral irrelevance.

Nothing defines the nature of their descent into mediocrity than their recent obsession with the unfortunate SNP MP, Margaret Ferrier. For the last two weeks this wretched party has gathered to feed on what they hope will be the political carcass of Ferrier as though she were a towering figure whose scalp might prove to be a game-changer.

Even Sir Keir Starmer, the establishment sleeper whose job it is to keep the party meek and obsequious was persuaded to dip his beak. In this they resembled the puny kids who stand well back when there’s bullying going on and then venture forward to have a fly kick when there’s no danger of retaliation.

Labour’s demise in Scotland hasn’t been helped by a succession of leaders devoid of the charisma or presence even to lay a glove on Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor, Alex Salmond. For much of the time Jim Murphy was leader he was also a member of the neo-liberal Henry Jackson Society. Kezia Dugdale spent the last few weeks of her political career representing her constituents in Australia where she received tens of thousands of pounds for appearing in a television game show. Richard Leonard meanwhile resembles a bridegroom who’d be incapable of getting a winch at his own wedding.

More damaging than this though, was the party’s ridiculous obsession with the Unionist cause in Scotland. In the run-up to the 2014 referendum on independence the Labour leadership wrapped itself so tightly in the Union Jack that they burst into a chorus of Rule Britannia anytime you pressed them, like a miniature Santa Claus you put beneath the tree.

So wedded to delivering Unionist propaganda were they during the preceding two years they were unaware of a growing resentment amongst their own communities at the one-sided austerity project being rolled out by the Conservative Government and Labour’s inability to oppose it.

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Since 2014 very few in the party seem to have learned any lessons from this. Instead, they’ve taken refuge in the Tory mantra of “there shall be no second referendum” even though eight elections in four different jurisdictions had produced a popular mandate for a second referendum.

The party has also been aware that around a third of its supporter base voted for independence in 2014. Yet instead of trying to accommodate them they alienated many in the Labour for Independence movement with a low-level campaign of threat and intimidation. It was an absurd strategy. No one was suggesting the party become pro-independence; merely that it recognised the shifts occurring in their old strongholds.

Some within the party resent being described as Unionists. They say that opposition to outright independence doesn’t equate to Unionism. But their continuing preference for tired anti-independence rhetoric and their UK leader’s policy of appeasement towards the Johnson/Cummings cartel would suggest otherwise.

Now it seems that the party, faced with the prospect of another electoral annihilation next year, has begun seriously to consider dropping its opposition to a second referendum. Alex Rowley, shadow cabinet secretary for Brexit and constitutional relations (a title akin to Armed Forces Minister for Bermuda) hinted to the Sunday National that the party might back a referendum if a three-option ballot paper included a devo-max question. It’s not exactly a major shift but it suggests that the party might just have woken from its decade-long slumber and begun listening to its own supporters.

Rowley’s comments came as the STUC signalled its intention to back a second independence referendum when the issue is put to a vote at its annual congress next month. This isn’t really a surprise but it suggests that significant momentum is building for independence within working class communities following a string of recent polls showing majority support for Yes.

The trade union movement in Scotland, unlike its brethren in the Labour Party, has chosen to listen to its members over the last decade and been far more adroit and nimble about independence. This suggests that the unions may yet have a crucial role to play in a second referendum campaign. Hopefully, they will also use this as a lever to keep the SNP honest on real issues affecting real communities in Scotland’s poorest areas.

As for the Labour Party in Scotland, any shift away from its ridiculous Union Jack posturing is way too late for them to salvage anything from next year’s elections. But it may yet augur well for them in the first General Election of an independent Scotland.