SCOTTISH Labour will soon be dead, we’re told. But I see few tears for this once great party, and I hear no words of sadness at its imminent passing. Labour, it’s said, faces “annihilation” at the Holyrood elections unless the party’s leader Richard Leonard is somehow removed from the stage – and there seems little chance of that happening in coming months. So, as one party insider says: “Scottish Labour is finished.” Leonard isn’t a bad man, but he cannot save Labour. Nothing can. The party has run its course in Scotland. Hope is irrecoverable. Talent and ideas have drained away.

Time’s up. The party has been flayed to the bone here – left a bloody rump; its connection with the public broken, faith lost, its position usurped. Labour in Scotland fears – rightly – that it will be overtaken by the Greens at the next election as the progressive alternative to the SNP.

There’s a certain grim irony that even Sir Keir Starmer cannot ride to the rescue now – as this talk of death and defeat mounts – isolating, as he is, after exposure to Covid. Gordon Brown – like a captain standing on the prow of his ship as it sinks below the tide – tries valiantly to uphold Labour’s values in Scotland, but the great sadness is that Labour lost its values a long time ago, and with it the trust of the people.

READ MORE: The Big Read: Have Scotland's millennials really turned their backs on trade unions?

There’s tragedy to this ending – in the classical and Shakespearean sense, not the cheap, quotidian sense, where even the defeat of a football team, or a flopped soufflé, is deemed tragic. True tragedy sees the great destroy themselves. Labour’s vaunting ambition was such that it burned forever its chances of being elected again – certainly in Scotland.

The Iraq War was the fatal step. Secure, cocky, in the centre ground, under Blair, Labour lost sight of its soul – fairness, peace and decency – and it died in the eyes of the public. Its new managerial class took the voters of this country for granted, thinking any blank loyalist was fit for office if they were media-trained and could parrot the party’s technocratic lies and platitudes. Then, come the independence referendum, Labour made common cause with the Conservative Party. We wanted better. Now it’s all but over.

Yet you’d have to own a heart of stone not to feel some sorrow. For Labour was once great, was it not? Like most people in this country I voted for Labour time and again. After Iraq, though – amid Shock and Awe – I’d have sooner dipped my hand in a bucket of blood than put an X beside the word ‘Labour’ on the ballot. Still, I mourn the ruin that’s Labour. No Labour – no welfare state. Without Labour this country would be a darker, much crueller place for so many reasons, for so many people.

Is there nobody who’ll offer Labour some fond thoughts as it fades? It’s hard not to think of Mark Antony’s speech – ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ – as he mourns the death of Caesar. The great leader, Caesar, has been murdered, and now, in death, he’s hated. Brutus – his killer – won’t hear one good word said of Caesar. So Mark Anthony steps forward. “The evil that men do lives after them,” he says, “the good is oft interred with their bones.”

“The noble Brutus,” Anthony tells Rome, “hath told you Caesar was ambitious: if it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.” Then Anthony sneers: “For Brutus is an honourable man.”

Caesar made Rome rich while he led the country, Anthony reminds his audience. He was a friend to the people. “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: ambition should be made of sterner stuff.”

I read Anthony’s great speech again this morning – and sentimental or not, those lines made me think of the hope that filled my generation in 1997 when Labour swept the Conservatives from power. There was joy for a few short years. I look again now on old stories which tell how child poverty levels plunged back then, and hope stirred in a country worn out, worn down – and it makes me sad that such promise was destroyed in two short decades.

“You all did love him once, not without cause,” Anthony says. “What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?”

We voted in our millions for Labour in Scotland. In 1997, we sent 56 Labour MPs to Westminster, together with 10 LibDems and 6 MPs from the SNP. In the first Scottish parliamentary elections of 1999, we elected 56 Scottish Labour MSPs – 35 from the SNP, 18 Conservatives, 17 LibDems, one Green, one Scottish Socialist.

READ MORE: Neil Mackay: British state colluded in the murder of its own citizens. Where’s the justice?

We cannot lie and say we never believed in Labour – and if we once believed, then its ruin should sadden us today. This country gave democratic socialism to the world in the shape of the Labour Party. Again, I don’t wish to indulge in wearying sentimentality or nostalgia, but we must keep our sense of history. The Labour Party was born in Scotland from the trade union movement.

Keir Hardie, a boy from Lanarkshire – sent to work aged seven, and in the coal mines by the time he was ten – founded the Labour Party. That story alone is one that this country of ours should be forever proud of – it proves that poverty is no barrier to success, that the poor and weak have strength together, that ordinary people can change the world around them, and that in a cruel world we can be better people.

So where’s the mourning? Why is there only mockery and laughter at Labour’s loss? The party is defeated, the least the victors can do is offer good grace. There’s no hope of Labour’s return – certainly not this side of a future independence referendum. Perhaps, in years to come, if the SNP does carry the nation to independence, it will be nationalists who, just years from now, look back on their glory days as they drift into obscurity – the constitutional project complete – while Scotland rediscovers its need for progressive politics. I say this as someone who will vote Yes in the future.

I haven’t voted for Labour for a long time now, but like Mark Anthony I can only say: “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar.”

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald