The most common refrain among old friends meeting up in Dundee was ‘oh, I didn’t think you’d still be a member’.

Such is the malaise engulfing Scottish Labour that many long-serving activists attended this year’s conference with the nagging fear that it may be their last.

There was precious little from the conference stage that could persuade those in the departure lounge that the party’s broad church can survive, let alone thrive.

Overshadowing the entire weekend, and dominating the media coverage, was the shameful anti-Semitism crisis engulfing Labour.

In traditional Labour fashion, the leadership contrived to make this problem go away and succeeded in doing the exact opposite.

First the party blocked an emergency motion, then members on the Scottish Executive Committee ratified that decision, then a PR storm blew in, and finally the leadership was forced into a U-turn and issued a public statement. I hesitate to use the word "leadership" as it is nowhere to be seen on this vital issue.

As for the speeches, the contribution to conference from deputy leader Lesley Laird was described by one long-serving political observer as the most "infantile" speech they had ever witnessed from a senior politician.

Entirely predictably, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was a masterclass in speaking to a room of enthusiastic supporters rather than to a country crying out for a competent opposition.

Just days before a raft of generation-defining votes in the Commons, Mr Corbyn had little to say on the Brexit challenge facing the nation.

He may have been forced into a policy position which now supports a People’s Vote – or "public vote" as the hard left insists on calling it – but it’s clear his own Euroscepticism has not waned.

Mr Corbyn should have apologised to the small audience in the Caird Hall and announced that, rather than speak to them on this occasion, he would look directly at the TV cameras and speak to the nation about the grave situation Britain finds itself in.

Obviously, he missed that opportunity.

By dodging the thorny issue of a second independence referendum, he did at least avoid getting his lines on the constitution wrong once again – something one tabloid newspaper cheekily decided was deserving of their "good day at conference" award.

Scottish leader Richard Leonard’s speech to last year’s conference, also in Dundee, was a fine piece of oratory, with a personal touch that endeared him to all factions of the party.

Perhaps that set the bar too high, as this year’s speech failed to match it.

The anti-Semitism crisis within the party clearly pains Mr Leonard, and his description of Labour as not only a "non-racist party", but also an "anti-racist party" was a powerful moment.

However, for most of the speech he was in his comfort zone – talking like a trade union delegate addressing fellow comrades in the room, not the country.

The main policy announcement was free bus travel. This starts off fine with a proposal to extend it to every young person, but then it travels into the land of the unicorns by making it free for every single person in Scotland.

Uncosted and unworkable, it was a stark reminder that Scottish Labour is in third place and is not preparing for the realities of government any time soon.

The section of the speech on Brexit came and went like a flash. Nothing to see here, move along.

And perhaps most telling was the absence of any real focus on the other constitutional divide in Scotland.

Like most people in the Labour Party, Mr Leonard is weary of the never-ending debate about Scottish independence. It’s not why people join the Labour Party.

That is as true for him as it was for his predecessors.

Understandably, he wants to talk about public services instead.

The problem is that Scottish Labour tried that in 2016. The hard left which now controls the party tries to rewrite the history of that year’s Holyrood election, but Scottish Labour stood on a radical manifesto that was more left-wing than the 2017 manifesto they love so much. The policies in the 2016 manifesto remain in place today, despite the "real change" slogan the party has now adopted.

Back then, Kezia Dugdale tried to ignore the constitutional divide and focus on public services. The Tories leap-frogged Labour into second.

In Scottish politics, you don’t earn the right to be heard on health, education or transport until voters know where you stand on independence.

Lessons were learnt, however reluctantly, and the 2017 general election campaign focused relentlessly on opposition to a second independence referendum, under the tagline Together We’re Stronger.

This led directly to six gains.

But it would have been far more were it not for Jeremy Corbyn.

Every time the UK leader ventured north he fluffed his lines on Indyref2, opened the door to another referendum, and handed the Tories ready-made election leaflets.

Seats across the Central Belt where Labour came a close second to the SNP would have turned red if a few hundred voters had trusted the party enough on the constitutional issue. Instead, they voted Tory.

It is a lie that Corbyn is an asset in Scotland – he is an electoral liability who stood in the way of Scottish Labour’s recovery, and he continues to hold it back.

Richard Leonard’s support for the Union is not in question. His left-wing trade unionist viewpoint means he is a strong believer in solidarity across the UK, even if his enthusiasm for solidarity across Europe is somewhat weaker.

But he would rather not talk about Scotland’s constitutional divide, and therefore risks ignoring the lessons the party learnt in 2016.

For the time being, while there remains a pro-independence majority in Parliament, the debate isn’t going to go away, however much Labour desperately wants it to.

Voters want to hear what our political leaders have to say about a second independence referendum before they’ll give you the time of day on other issues.

Richard Leonard deserves to be heard. The SNP has been in power for over a decade and its record in delivering public services is a mixed bag.

There is space for a Scottish Labour Party to put forward radical new ideas.

But if it chooses to ignore the independence debate, the party will only be talking to itself because the country won’t be listening.