No if, buts or maybes.Whoever takes over as leader of the Scottish Labour Party has to be in complete control of the organisation and policies that best suit Scottish circumstances in the political climate created by devolution.

That has never been the case; indeed there will still be some colleagues in London - Scottish colleagues - who will advocate the use of some convoluted, watered-down title for the leader because they have never really come to terms with the hard political consequences of devolution.

These will be the same people who refused to accept that what happened in May 2007 was no fluke. The same people who rejected arguments that the loss of that election reflected our organisational weaknesses, the complexity and lack of clarity in our message. And the same people who, with not a little arrogance, dismissed all this as panicking from defeated politicians who just did not understand that the SNP would have no traction in a Westminster election.

With Shettleston Glasgow East behind us, perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about those views is that they have been exposed as deficient. If Shettleston doesn't make Scottish Labour politicians north and south of the Border realise that the Scottish political landscape has changed significantly they could be pushed to the fringes of that new landscape for a very long time.

For too long, there have been Scottish Labour politicians at local government level and at Westminster who have been resentful, and even contemptuous, of the Scottish parliament. That behaviour needs to stop now if we are to have any chance of regaining ground. We need to face up to the sad fact that even though we were the party that created the Scottish parliament, too many of our elected representatives have never come to terms with it.

The SNP have no such difficulties. In policy terms they can go from A to B unfettered, with the result that they look and sound clear and sure-footed. Labour, on the other hand, have to deal with all those who have failed to grasp the political consequences of devolution.

Abolishing the council tax is a straightforward policy choice for the SNP, but for Scottish Labour, concerns about the implications for other areas of the United Kingdom - concerns about opposition from Westminster - mean that a pointless fudge is presented as a radical change.

The truth is that Labour throughout the UK could give itself a massive boost if they faced up to the discredited nature of the tax. Scottish Labour should take the lead.

Banning smoking in public places is another good example: there were powerful voices in Westminster who thought we were alienating our core vote when I was touring the country with the consultation. Turns out that we led the way for the rest of the United Kingdom to adopt the same legislation. There is a lesson in there about Scottish Labour standing on their own two feet while making a positive contribution to the United Kingdom.

The result for Labour in Scotland is all too often the obscure language of prevarication that the public can see right through.

All of that slowly but surely changed the political landscape as we now know and it leaves the new Labour leader in Scotland massive challenges to confront and conquer. Put simply, he or she has to face the fact that in May 2007 and since the SNP looked and sounded like a party on the side of change while Labour looked and sounded like a party on the side of the way things had always been.

Yes, the SNP have broken promises, but they have delivered on enough to keep people believing that they are in pursuit of change. They have swept away bridge tolls and are on their way to abolishing prescription charges, hardly earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things, but strong signals nevertheless. They witter on about a "historic concordat" with local government. The truth is that there is very little about it that's historic and it's a fair bet that it will end in tears. But in the meantime it is another indicator of change.

Most importantly of all, the SNP still promise to remove the burden of the council tax.

So how can Scottish Labour respond? First, with a leader who is seen to be in charge, taking responsibility and being prepared to say and do what is best for Scots, no matter who it might upset.

A leader who is prepared to publicly ask the government in Westminster, irrespective of its political colour, why companies such as Shell can make £8billion profit in six months while Scots can scarcely afford to fill up cars and vans.

A leader who will ask why we are not taxing gas companies that are making billions at the same time as they are doubling the energy bills of Scottish families.

A leader who wants to have responsibility for raising the money their government spends and be chastened by that accountability in the process.

Finally, a leader who accepts that the council tax has become an unfair burden: a tax that breaks the understanding of proportionality between the government and the governed. Even one who is brave enough to admit that we haven't yet found a workable alternative but acknowledges that a firm timetable for abolition will concentrate the mind.

A commitment on council tax is especially important because it will become all too clear that the SNP have not found an alternative. There is nothing "local" about a centrally set tax, and anyone who can count knows that three pence in the pound leaves a revenue gap that will throw the provision of public services into utter chaos.

The forthcoming contest is one that I will not take part in; nevertheless I am grateful for the many friends and colleagues who have asked me to consider it. The new leader will require support from every section of the Labour Party, and the Labour Party must show intolerance for those who thoughtlessly or selfishly undermine that leadership.

Perhaps more than anything they will need a strong will. For the sake of Scotland and the Labour Party I hope they find it, and in so doing protect the hundred-year legacy that we all inherited.

Part 1 - The battle for Labour's soul

Part 2 - Who will wield the dagger in the cabinet?

Part 3 - Holyrood - Gray supporter bought campaign website before Alexander quit