WHEN Johann Lamont resigned as the leader of Scottish Labour last year, she delivered a devastating parting shot. "The Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London," she said. She went on to say that, while Scottish Labour should work in partnership with the UK party, it also had be allowed to make its own decisions. Home rule was not simply a matter for the Scottish Parliament, it was a matter for Scottish Labour too.

A year on from Ms Lamont's resignation, her successor as leader Kezia Dugdale has now begun to put the plan into action. Speaking to the Parliamentary Labour Party in the House of Commons this week, she said that under her reforms, Scottish Labour would become responsible for all the important decisions: the selection of candidates for every election, including UK general elections; the management of local constituency Labour parties; party membership; and most importantly of all: policy making.

The thinking behind the changes is similar to Ms Lamont's. Not only is Ms Dugdale responding to what she is being told on the doorsteps by many lapsed Labour voters, that the Scottish party does not reflect their views, she wants the party to reflect the changes on the political landscape. The key decisions affecting Scots' lives are made at Holyrood, she says, so that is where the main focus of Scottish Labour should be: "as the country becomes more devolved so too the Labour Party has to change".

There is considerable political and strategic logic to Ms Dugdale's changes, but there are some risks too. There are many in Scottish Labour who believe in the ties of solidarity with the wider movement – indeed, it was for this reason that many of them voted No in the independence referendum – and if the argument for unionism is that you can pool and share resources, should the same argument not apply to the party?

Ms Dugdale's response is that there would be co-operation on staffing and finance between the Scottish party and the rest of the movement, but the risk of opening a gap is that the gap will widen. In creating the new structure, is Ms Dugdale to some extent playing to the SNP narrative that Scotland and the rest of the UK are so different and divergent that only separate parties and political structures will do?

Even if Ms Dugdale does have such concerns, the reality is that she has little choice if she is to build credibility with many of those who might vote Labour. One of the most damaging episodes during Johann Lamont's tenure was the revelation that the Westminster party had attempted to replace Scottish Labour's general secretary Ian Price without consulting her and Ms Dugdale cannot afford a similar incident to happen to her.

The reforms are also an acknowledgement of the reality of devolution and a potential solution to political differences across the border. When Ms Lamont was leader, she faced a crisis over the bedroom tax – she wished to condemn it, but she was prevented from doing so for a year while Ed Miliband decided what to do.

Under the new structure, that should not happen again as Scottish Labour would be free to take a different stance from the Westminster party on the bedroom tax, or any other policy. There will need to be strong connections between the parties in Edinburgh and London to ensure a coherent voice, but such an arrangement could also give Scottish Labour the distinctive voice Kezia Dugdale wants to give it.