There's a classic slapstick scene in The Simpsons where Homer falls off a mountain, banging his head on every rock and branch on the way down. 

A helicopter airlifts him back to the top of the mountain – banging his head on every rock and branch on the way up. Paramedics stretcher Homer into an ambulance. 

It drives off, crashes into a tree, the back doors swing open and Homer rolls out on his stretcher and falls back down the mountain.

That’s Scottish Labour. The party is incapable of putting a foot right. In fact, when it tries to put a foot right, its giant clown shoes step on a rake that hits it in the face.

Labour has been in chaos since it got thumped senseless by voters at the General Election. The shenanigans over what to do about independence have been a popcorn-gobbling sight to behold.

Some members want a second referendum, some don’t. Some like federalism, some don’t.

Some think independence is inevitable, some would rather get all Johnsonian and die in a ditch than yield to the evil Nats.

In an attempt to sort this absolute parody of a sham of a farce out, leader Richard Leonard planned a special conference on the constitution, to consider whether the party should back Indyref2, with federalism maybe a third option on the ballot.

That sounded a good idea. Have a debate, settle on a position – stick to it. Voters like that kind of thing. But no, that’s way too easy for Labour. Too painless. Better to collectively clamber naked into a bag of razor blades and jump around.

The party’s Scottish Executive Committee rejected Leonard’s idea. Instead, the party will now have an “away day” to discuss the constitution. An “away day”. Are we in a Carry On film? Carry on Incompetent?   

The headlines were inevitable. It was “utterly humiliating”. A “complete mess”.
Scottish Labour is disintegrating before our eyes. This is the party’s twilight.

Labour cannot cope with the constitutional demands of the 21st century. Brexit and Scottish independence are killing it.

The problem with Labour is Labour. The party of today is in love with the idea of itself, with the history of the party. It’s as if there’s a shrine to Keir Hardie’s flat-cap where all members must genuflect. The only problem is: the public couldn’t care less about Labour traditions and purity. Things changed years ago, Labour just hasn’t caught up.

It all seems funny, but in truth it’s tragic. Scotland needs a functioning Labour Party – any democracy needs a strong voice from the left. The SNP dresses in progressive clothes, but it’s really just been stealing for years now from what was once Labour’s wardrobe. Scottish democracy would be much more robust if there were an authentic left-wing party standing up for ordinary people. So what are Labour’s options? You can game the strategies – but none of them look good for Labour. 

First, the party can stick with the position it has on the constitution. The problem is, though, that most of the public will say, “what is that position?”. One minute Labour seems to be moving towards support for Indyref2, or devo max, and the next it’s walking everything backwards. 

Also, voters kicked Labour so hard in the head on its present position at the election that the party is now effectively wearing its face upside down. Labour lost six out of seven MPs and came third behind the Tories on 18.6 per cent of the vote.

What about federalism or devo max? This is such a sad debate for Labour to have – because it’s pointless and it will not save them, yet many in the party seem to think of federalism as the lifeboat which will carry them to safety.

Before Brexit, some form of federalism may have been an option, but not now. Surely even Labour can see that?   

How will federalism appeal to voters who care about the EU? It will not retain their EU citizenship. It won’t appeal to Yes voters, as they want independence. Federalism won’t appeal to Remain voters as they want back in the EU.

Federalism is an escape tunnel with an armed guard waiting at the end of it. 

Nor will the mechanics of federalism work. In a federal UK all voices would need to be equal – that’s the point. However, England has a population of 56 million, Scotland 5.5 million.

Unless federalism involves England being balkanised into a series of regions – Yorkshire, Cornwall, the Midlands – with roughly equivalent populations, it will be entirely undemocratic and unfair. Why would England agree to that? No-one’s even asked the English.

So, should Labour adopt a neutral position on independence? Drop opposition to it, but don’t campaign as a party for it – allow members a free vote on independence. It sounds nice, but we need only remember the party’s position on Brexit at the election.

Trying to play both sides may sound super-smart and slippery, but the electorate doesn’t buy it.

What about going full ultra-unionist? Well, Labour tried that in 2014 and that was the start of its terminal decline. Former Deputy Leader Alex Rowley, also constitution spokesman, tweeted that too many Labour apparatchiks still feel Better Together and “standing alongside the Tories is the best way forward”. If a voter wants unionism, they’ve got the Conservatives.

What’s left? The remaining option is to back independence. Every other path is closed off. Could it work? Could the party reconfigure itself, setting out a leftwing case for independence – taking the nationalism out of the Yes movement? Might that bring back progressives who left Labour for the SNP? There’s plenty of such voters out there who aren’t natural SNP supporters.
Some Labour figures see the writing on the wall. Ben Bradshaw MP, who was in government with Blair and Brown, says he’s “100% certain” Scotland will become independent.

MSP Monica Lennon thinks the Scottish party should split from the UK party. The idea is hard to fault.

Of course, backing independence could immediately cause Labour to implode. Members might flee, senior figures quit. Would voters be drawn from the SNP to Labour? It’s unlikely. But with Labour on life support, it might be the only option left.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year.