SCOTTISH Labour needs to embrace “progressive patriotism” to make a comeback against the SNP, one of the party’s former cabinet ministers has said.

Speaking ahead of a Fabian Society conference in Edinburgh today, former Local Government Secretary John Denham said left-wing parties across Europe faced the loss of their previous support in the working class and trade unions.

With identity politics increasingly important, he said Labour should confront the SNP on its home turf and persuade voters it would stand up for Scotland.

Progressive patriotism meant Labour framing its policies - on the economy, taxation, inequality and other issues - in terms of building a better nation, he said.

The Professor of English Identity and Politics at Winchester University, Mr Denham told the Herald: “All of us need to put our social democracy into the language of progressive patriotism. You have to go with the politics of identity.

“It might give Scottish Labour the opportunity to offer a clear, distinctive voice. A new way of looking at the Union, which is neither hanging on for an independence that is never going to come, which is the Nationalist position, or the Union as the status quo.

“You can put forward a Union based not on history and sentiment, but on nations cooperating together, because it’s in our common interest."

He contrasted the approach to that of Better Together in the independence referendum.

“We saw pollster after pollster saying the only thing that matters to the Scots is whether they’ll be better or worse off. When some of us came up to work in the referendum campaign we found a nation discussing its future.

“Better Together never connected with that emotional debate about what sort of nation Scotland wanted to be until very late in the day.

“Of course, people worry about what’s in their pocket, but this big issue - who are we, what sort of nation do we want to be, what sort of values do we want to share - is much more central to politics than it was 30 or 40 years ago.”

Also taking part today are Labour MP Ian Murray, MEP David Martin, MSP Sarah Boyack, former Scotland Office minister Ann McKechin, and Edinburgh’s Professor Nicola McEwen.