LABOUR will be destroyed in Scotland at this General Election. An electoral bomb is going to drop on the party and blow what remains of it to smithereens. It seems the only person likely to be left standing once the dust clears will be Ian Murray. If polls are correct, Murray, the party’s candidate in Edinburgh South, will be the sole Labour MP returned in Scotland.

Labour simply can’t sustain such a blow and remain even marginally relevant. This would be the second time in less than five years that the party’s Scottish contingent at Westminster has been reduced to a humiliating rump. At the 2015 General Election, Murray was also the only Labour candidate elected in Scotland. One Labour MP in 2015. And one Labour MP in 2019. It’s an existential crisis.

The party also looks likely to face defeat in England, with a probable Conservative majority on the cards at Westminster. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard will cling on to leadership after the beating is over – though it seems unlikely if the defeat turns out to be as colossal as predicted – but whoever is in charge, they’ll have to completely reimagine Labour in Scotland if the party is to have any relevance after December 12.

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If Boris Johnson secures a majority and has free rein over Brexit, then the clamour for a second independence referendum in Scotland will become deafening. The Yes and No sides of the independence debate in Scotland seem fairly equally balanced at the moment. One recent poll had support for independence at 50 per cent. With Johnson securely in power, the scales will tip in Scotland towards leaving the UK – that’s inevitable.

The path to Labour recovering any relevance lies in how it reconfigures itself around the issue of Scottish independence.

If Labour sides once again with Conservatives in a unionist bloc, then the party may as well dig its own grave. The best position for Labour is to adopt a neutral stance on independence. As a party it should neither campaign for or against independence. However, individual members should be allowed to campaign and vote as they please.

Labour should accept a second independence referendum as the fair and democratic decision. If Brexit had never happened, then it was legitimate to see the outcome of the 2014 referendum as a settled matter – that Scotland had said No. But Brexit did happen. The electorate in Scotland was lied to – we were told a vote to stay in the UK would keep us in Europe. Compound this with Scotland’s Remain vote, and Tory disregard for the will of the majority of Scottish people over Europe. Arguing against a second independence referendum seems wilfully unjust.

If Corbyn can now take a neutral position on Brexit – as he did a few days ago – then once this election is over his party can take a neutral position on independence. Of course there’ll be sneering from nationalists and unionists, but after December 12 Labour in Scotland will be lying all but dead in a gutter. You don’t really bother about sneers when you’re on life support.

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It might be a hard and humiliating path for Labour, but all this is the party’s own fault. Scottish Labour started walking away from its supporters long before independence became an issue at the ballot box.

Most Labour voters put up with the neo-liberalism of the Blair years as they were glad for any break with the Thatcher-Major past. People shut their eyes to the fact that we had a soft Tory government dressed up in Labour clothes. Then Iraq happened. The invasion severed ties between many supporters and the Labour Party for good.

In Scotland, the SNP led opposition to the war – that was the beginning of the end for Labour as the dominant party here. By 2007, the SNP was in government and it’s dominated politics ever since, bringing independence from the fringes and placing it at the centre of politics.

The SNP easily stepped into the role of Scotland’s progressive party. If you were centre-left, a party which had once been looked upon suspiciously because of its narrow nationalism, became acceptable.

England and Scotland could now – with some degree of accuracy – be portrayed as embarking on quite different paths on issues like the NHS, tuition fees, and immigration.

In 2011, the SNP won a majority, and a new status quo was established. The SNP became the traditional party of power. The idea of independence was fully normalised and the nation was on its way to the 2014 referendum. The No side won a pyrrhic victory, defeating the Yes camp but fighting such a dreadful campaign that 45% of the country swung behind independence. Labour trashed what remained of its reputation by cosying up to the Tories throughout the referendum.

Now complete destruction awaits Labour on December 12. Perhaps that’s a good thing - maybe it’s only when you hit rock bottom that you climb back up again.

After a long period of recovery, a Scottish Labour Party neutral on independence would be able to mount some challenge to the SNP from the left. At the moment the SNP is unassailable and that is very bad for Scottish democracy. If one party is always dominant it gets sluggish and complacent – something we can see in the SNP now.

In Scotland, only a left-wing party can take on the SNP. With potentially half the country inclined to independence, though, unionist Labour today is not that party. Unionists, centrists and right-wingers have their parties in Scotland – the Tories and LibDems cater for them. Labour is blind to progressive, left-wing voters who favour independence but are uncomfortable with SNP nationalism.

Many Yes voters hate nationalism, and only reluctantly back the SNP. The SNP hierarchy may project soft ‘civic nationalism’, which progressives just about tolerate, but the party’s base, with its angry Scottish exceptionalism, is anathema for many.

Labour has still not worked out that many voters support independence for the same reason they once supported the Labour Party – they want fairness and equality. They don’t hate England or think Scotland is some idyll, they want rid of Westminster because they see it as flawed and iniquitous. They just might vote for a Labour Party that’s neutral on independence.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year