It is clear from the reporting of Alex Rowley’s prescient comments in today’s Herald: ‘Deputy leader says Labour should pursue Home Rule’ (Mon May 6, 2015,) that Scottish Labour is down but not out. But how do we fight back? Does Scottish Labour still have a distinctive narrative to offer the Scottish people? I believe the unequivocal answer to that question is: yes!
In 2015 we fought the general election largely on a retrospective debate on the constitution. In 2016 we tried to forget that there is a constitutional debate and not withstanding Thomas Docherty's very unhelpful comments tried to focus on a radical manifesto which had poverty reduction at its heart.
However, Labour’s desire to ‘move on’. was not by and large shared by the Scottish people who didn't want to move on. The Labour challenge is to find how we can use the constitution to help people ‘get on’.
The way forward for Labour is not an either or but a fusion of radical constitutionalism with radical policies for creating jobs and tackling poverty and inequality.
Our most successful period as a party was when we were unequivocally the party of "home rule" and the Party most associated with fairness.
John Smith rightly said that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people. What Labour has not acknowledged is that the form of devolution is not settled.
Labour has to have a serious debate about what needs to be done to create quality jobs in Scotland, improve our public services , tackle social exclusion etc and then tie our devolution demands to these. In other words we need to get back to "powers with a purpose".
It must mean moving towards a federal UK but for Scotland this means a modem day vision of Home Rule - a Scotland based on a constitutional settlement which provides 'maximum power with maximum security'.
Scottish Labour needs to look to its past to give it hope for the future. Aldous Huxley said: That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history”.
I hope Scottish Labour can prove him wrong.