We need to hear more than a counsel of despair from politicians in bad times.

We need hope, passion, and a determination to fight back.

Labour leader Johann Lamont's review announced last week seems to lack all three.

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Lamont's message that smaller budgets mean cuts to beloved services would have delighted only technocrats.

Her statement on the future direction of public services in Scotland was a huge political gamble, predicated on her ability to persuade her party and the electorate to embrace ever greater austerity.

Numerous reports and experts tell the same story – the bountiful years at the outset of devolution are over, and the tough times are about to get worse.

Lamont suggests the current range of universal benefits, such as free bus travel, free personal care, free prescriptions, free higher education and the council-tax freeze, appears unaffordable and that some things must be means-tested or axed.

Even if positive ideas do emerge from her review, by then Lamont may be synonymous with cuts, with any talk of targeting resources at the needy forgotten.

Little wonder trade union leaders and others in Labour, who were kept in the dark about Lamont's speech, are struggling to understand how she has helped their cause, not just in 2014, but in the Westminster and Holyrood elections in the 18 months after the referendum.

Scenting a scalp to hang alongside those of Lord McConnell, Wendy Alexander and Iain Gray, the SNP claim Lamont has not only antagonised her own supporters but, fatally, also picked a fight with the electorate, who are hugely fond of the policies she would put under the knife.

It may be worse than that.Lamont's review smacks of a party that has fundamentally lost its way.

Instead of trying to resist austerity, she is eagerly using it as stick to beat the SNP.

As the SNP, rather than the Conservatives and LibDems, are Labour's main electoral opponents, that makes a superficial kind of sense. But her method is to outflank the SNP on the right, and attack them – heaven forfend! – for trying to maintain universal services.

Denied power at Holyrood for a second term, Labour appear so warped by their tribal hatred of the Nationalists that they would rather align with the Coalition than the SNP.

Instead of recognising a fellow progressive force, they would rather collude in dismantling the welfare state.

It is a pitiful sight.

Lamont and her party need to aim far, far higher if they are to restore any credibility in the wake of this dire week.