Interviewed on the BBC's Scotland 2015 at the start of the week, Tom Harris had a fit of the giggles when he was asked about Labour's chances of a recovery in time for the next Scottish elections.

The former Glasgow South MP apologised for his loss of composure, but couldn't help himself. He laughed because the idea is laughable.

Who doesn't know it? North and south, Labour has embarked on the longest post-mortem since Victor Frankenstein got out the tools and tried to give life to inanimate matter. The doctor spent two years on the job, with unhappy results. In the south, nevertheless, Labour is trying to cobble together a leader from the spare parts of four defunct careers. In Scotland, the remaining faithful ponder dead meat and pray for a movie moment: "It's alive!"

On both sides of the Border there is a presumption that somehow politics isn't feasible without a functioning Labour Party. It might be a lumbering, mumbling, stumbling sort of thing. It might not be pretty to look at it. But for some, as acres of newsprint and hours of broadcasting attest, the world only makes sense if Labour lives. So attach the electrodes; let's galvanise this sucker...

There are obvious things to be said about the need for opposition. There is something to add about the Scottish habit of turning a dominant party into a political establishment. From 1964 until the dawn of the 21st century, Labour occupied the role as though by right, without much talk of a one-party state. The edifice began to crumble with the Holyrood elections of 2003. It was reduced to rubble on 7 May. Yet isn't someone supposed to represent the 50% who didn't vote for the Scottish National Party?

Who says it has to be Labour? At Westminster, with 232 of 650 Commons seats, the party is still entitled to claim the loser's prize. In Scotland, the only flickering pulses running through the cadaver come from the sputtering pocket dynamos of Unionism. Despite their racket, despite the grievance politics of those who detest a world turned upside down, this is not a renewable resource.

What can be done to revive Labour in Scotland? If all you did was read the papers and listen to broadcasters - one reason why so many have been so wrong about Scotland for so long - you would think it was the only question. Voters have meanwhile, as they say, moved on. On 7 May around 2.91 million Scots exercised the franchise. Just 707,147 cared about what might become of Labour.

No one, least of all Mr Harris, thinks things will be different at Holyrood next 5 May, unless - who's betting against? - things get even worse. Yesterday, nominations closed for the Scottish leadership. Most of the betting is on Kezia Dugdale to win against Ken Macintosh, but the real argument is slightly risible: what can be done to preserve the sixth leader in seven years after the party takes another hammering next spring?

Those who know a bit of history add existential questions. Might it be that Labour's time is up as a party, as a movement? What's wrong with the Greens, given a couple of more years, as a repository for the left-of-centre vote? In Scotland, there is an obvious answer: a majority of Scottish Greens do not differ much from the SNP over the fundamental question of independence. One way or another, despite wishful Tory thinking, the Union has one dog in this fight.

Simple as that? In the south, there is a leadership argument defined by the Tory manifesto, with an old socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, granted his tuppence-worth to console the last naïve optimists. In Scotland, asked to gaze upon the choice between autonomy and Labour's private version of Unionism, the party tries to look the other way. That won't help.

Andrew Tickell, the estimable Peat Worrier, composed a blog exploring the dilemma the other day ( Summarised crudely, he argued that an "autonomous" Scottish Labour could not long remain a bulwark of Union. If even it could not "pool and share" - my paraphrase - how could it still recommend the habit to the rest of us?

A fair point. The response would be this: how many votes would the party hope to glean in Scotland if its UK leader was Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, or (even) Mr Corbyn? For Labour, as we used to say, internal contradictions are profound. The Scottish party can continue to drift on whatever course its UK siblings manage to chart. But it will be drifting away from Scottish voters, especially those who once voted Labour.

Many are past caring. Half the electorate gave the Scottish National Party 56 MPs in part because they have no interest now in what Labour gets up to, in part because they expected the SNP to do a job. You might remember. It was the task that emerged favourite, hands down, in every poll before the referendum: more powers. The truly popular choice was the "consolation prize" kept off the voting papers last September.

The history of devolution is littered with full and final offers. The Smith Commission was supposed to be one of those. Like all the constitutional circuses that had travelled the path before, it was supposed to settle things - and settle Scotland - once and for all. Implemented in full, they said; with all possible speed, they said; the most powerful devolved legislature (apart from the other ones) anywhere. The small matter of a General Election was no impediment to the endeavour.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when a Holyrood majority and 56 of 59 Scottish MPs would have been enough for the SNP to claim a mandate for independence negotiations. Nothing, bar the semi-logic of Nationalist gradualism, has changed since then. But those who would draw lines in the sand around "Smith" and the Scotland Bill are simply inviting a tide to advance.

The Smith Commission ceased to be relevant on 7 May. The voters saw to that. The bill is a year (at least) too late, whatever David Mundell, Scottish Secretary, would have you believe. When David Bell and David Eiser of Stirling University produce work to show that added powers for Holyrood could have a transformative effect on inequality in Scotland, it's time to stop messing around. Control over the minimum wage, for one, is more than a wee prize to be withheld from the SNP.

If Labour goes on refighting the battles of 2014, there is no hope for it in 2016 and beyond. Writing on the Labour Hame website (, Mr Harris told all concerned, but especially his own side, that it was time to grow up and recognise common ground, to accept - for example - that "Nicola Sturgeon is a committed social democrat with values that the vast majority of Scottish Labour members would share".

What are the odds? It might be that Mr Harris underestimates blind hatred. But if Scottish |Labour wants to rise from the grave, it should think again, and think first about the Scotland Bill. Mr Mundell, poor lonely soul, is getting away with nonsense.