A political dilemma is gripping Spain:  whether to grant an amnesty to organisers of an illegal separation referendum in Catalonia six years ago, thereby allowing them to return from exile.

The Socialist Prime Minister is tempted to do so in order to facilitate a parliamentary majority in Madrid and avoid another election which would be likely to return a right-wing government.

Public opinion is hostile. Support for Catalan independence has faded. A triumphal return of the exiles might stir the whole thing up. “They want to live in conflict for ever,” said one opponent, “while we want to live in peace.”

That struck me as an astute summary with relevance to our own circumstances. Whatever parallels ever existed between Scotland and Catalonia have diverged. However, the same general question has a new focus. Do we want our politics to be defined by the permanent conflict of constitutional dispute or are we ready to move on?

Both the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election result and polling which suggests Labour would take control at Holyrood signal that mood for change. Scotland seems ready to park the constitutional debate which is clearly going nowhere in order to pursue attainable change at both Holyrood and Westminster.

There were always two big risks about where devolution would lead Scotland, in the wrong hands. The first was that our politics would degenerate into a never-ending dispute about “powers”. The second was that existing ones would become more centralised, at the expense of local democracy and accountability.

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I would argue that both these fears have been justified by events of the past 16 years. Labour now has the opportunity to liberate us from the consequences by re-drawing the dividing lines of Scottish politics, away from that constitutional “conflict for ever”.

The next Holyrood elections are two and a half years away. If, before then, Labour achieves power at Westminster, the case for having two Labour administrations working together for shared objectives will be compelling.

According to its own rhetoric, the SNP-Green administration in Edinburgh will be no better disposed to working constructively with a Labour UK government than it has been with the Tories. The doctrine of permanent constitutional conflict does not allow for that adjustment.

My guess is that a wounded SNP would be more belligerent towards an incoming Labour government rather than less, opening up an even clearer choice. Does Scotland want two governments working together or in conflict? It is just unfortunate we have to wait so long for confirmation of the answer.

The 2021 Holyrood election results were so bad for Labour in the age of Jeremy Corbyn that they ended up as third party. That denied Anas Sarwar a platform as leader of the opposition, with the profile that accompanies it. He has had to work even harder in order to make his presence felt and is succeeding.

That 2021 disaster also left Labour with a corps of just 22 MSPs, all but two elected through the list system. They will need to build the profiles of a few more identifiable figures in the run-up to 2026. Just as important, they must develop a policy platform that supports the message of change.

For 16 years, the SNP got away with talking the talk on issues which strike a chord. It took a long time for the penny to drop that the gap between rhetoric and delivery is as wide as the Clyde and, essentially, nothing they are responsible for is going in the right direction – health, education, the police, and much more.

Most of that is not due to lack of money, with which the Scottish Government has always been well endowed, but about competence, priorities and political choices. These are targets on which Scottish Labour should concentrate, to demonstrate that devolution can work a lot better, if it is in the hands of people who actually want to make it work.

That takes me to the second big “risk” which has come true - the relentless process of centralisation, invariably to the detriment of public services. Policing is a hot current example; a National Care Service another costly one in the making.

It has been a political choice to debilitate local authorities to the point where they can barely carry out their statutory duties. It has been a political choice to neuter powerful economic agencies. Everyone knows this is happening around them but it needs to be articulated politically.

Michael Kelly, the former Lord Provost of Glasgow, wrote recently in The Herald about how the city’s ambition has shrunk in the absence of any strategy for economic development and inward investment. He called for a Glasgow City Region with extensive powers and budgets to match comparable cities which have seen growth rather than decline; the antithesis of the SNP’s approach.

From another perspective, Kate Forbes spoke last week about neglect of the Highlands and Islands, burdened not only with funding cuts but also a succession of policies determined remotely with no understanding of “specific and diverse needs” that do not fit the One Scotland model.

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The same pleas could be heard from any part of Scotland where local understanding and input, far from being strengthened by devolution, have been systematically eroded by a political creed which wants to control everything that moves in Scotland.

Labour, as the party of devolution, has the opportunity to restore its intended meaning. Devolution should mean working constructively with the government of the UK from which powers are devolved and also devolving powers to the most appropriate levels of decision-making within Scotland. All that is anathema to the SNP and Greens precisely because it would offer fundamental change, make for a better-run nation and send the kind of politics which depends on permanent conflict round the constitution into permanent exile. That is good ground to fight on.

There is a fair chance that the SNP will have ditched both Humza Yousaf and the Greens well before May 2026, so Labour may have to aim at a moving target.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party MP and Energy Minister