The defining characteristic of the SNP’s General Election campaign was its stupidity. Betting the house on a claim nobody believed – that electing a Labour government changes nothing - betrayed a continuing assumption that most Scottish people could be fooled, all of the time.

In startling numbers, voters hit back. They were firmly on the side of change which, in Scotland, means liberation from two deeply-disliked governments. Huge majorities were brushed aside. They kicked the Tories hard and the SNP harder, because there were more of them to aim at. Now our dear patriots must live with the reality of change and, even worse, the fear of it.

Change did not take long to manifest itself. Before the mandatory grievance press release could be issued, Keir Starmer turned up in Edinburgh, exuding co-operation and pro-active on Grangemouth. Then he did the same with other first ministers and metro mayors. All spot on and symbolic of change.

So it will go on. Much of what came out of Whitehall in these first few days challenges the inertia of Edinburgh. What will the Scottish Government do about housing, other than slash the budget for affordable homes? Is our snail’s pace planning system immune to reform, not least to deal with the energy transition? And so on, day after day.

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Soon, Scottish Labour must think about its own messages of change in advance of Holyrood elections. It will not be enough to rely on the continuing unpopularity of the SNP, though that is unlikely to diminish. Indeed, as reforms to public services unfold in England, there will be more questions asked if these are not mirrored in Scotland.

As long as there was a Tory government, the Nationalists could ritually invoke superiority over our neighbours, even if it wasn’t true. On education, for example, it would have done no harm to borrow some of the policy innovations which were driving up standards while Scotland was descending into the relegation zone of international league tables.

On urban regeneration, the record of Andy Burnham and other metro mayors has long been there to be learned from, if anyone was interested. All that will be given fresh impetus by a Labour government and Scots will be less interested in divisions between “reserved” and “devolved” than in asking: “Why can’t we have some of that?” - to which there will be no credible answer from Mr Swinney’s St Andrew’s House.

Labour needs to consolidate a philosophical dividing line about how Scotland should be run. On the one hand, Labour is the party of devolution; on the other, the SNP is the party of centralisation. First it is necessary to be clear on what devolution means. And it is certainly not a sterile argument over more powers for Edinburgh. We’ve had enough of that.

To digress into one small personal example, I am the parent of a son in receipt of Personal Independence Payment. Two letters have arrived telling me that that this “has been replaced with a new Social Security Payment called Adult Disability Payment” and will be “transferring to Social Security Scotland”. I am promised that “Social Security Scotland will send you a letter about your award of Adult Disability Payment”. Can anyone tell me a single advantage in this? What is the cost and would it not have been better spent on, for the sake of argument, facilities for people with learning difficulties than a pointless bureaucratic exercise? Let’s just draw a line on powers until there is evidence of existing ones being used better.

The devolution I am talking about is within Scotland. For 17 years, there has been a relentless process of centralisation with powers concentrated in Edinburgh that would be far more effectively exercised at local and regional levels. Councils have been left as skeleton organisations. Quangos are under tight Scottish Government control. The third sector dares not criticise if it values its funding.

None of this is by inadvertence. Nationalism, wherever it arises, is a centralising philosophy which does not brook challenge. Powerful local authorities are anathema, so we have no equivalent to the metro regions of England and most European countries. Just the dead hand of centralised government.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater ManchesterAndy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester (Image: PA)

Councils have been stripped of resources; not in the past few years but systematically since the SNP came to power. Much of the despair felt in Scotland is caused by their inability to deliver services on which people depend because they no longer have either powers or money. Public bodies like HIDB/HIE and SDA/Scottish Enterprise used to be led by recognisable public figures. They had the resources to make a difference and authority to challenge government when required. Now, they are shrunken shadows of their former selves, treated as branch offices of Edinburgh. The public appointments system is corrupted to keep quangos in “safe” hands with the same shadowy characters flitting from one to the next, the only qualification being to keep their mouths shut and cause no trouble.

Labour should challenge all the symptoms of this unhealthy culture as part of a far wider malaise which has used the façade of devolution to suck powers ever further from the communities they affect.

The other argument against centralisation is that it is incompetent because it replaces local knowledge and sensitivity with long-range ignorance. We see this in the way hundreds of millions in EU funding have been lost by a bureaucracy in Edinburgh after regional partnerships were closed down for no good reason. We see it in the way ferry companies are run by ministerially-appointed directors who, astonishingly, have never been to a CalMac port in their lives.

Last Thursday confirmed that Scotland is sick of the SNP and opportunity now lies firmly with Labour. Policy battles need to be fought within the wider context of an entirely different view of how devolved Scotland should be run. The party of the people should be the party of local democracy and internal devolution, essential components in the change Scotland voted for and will surely do so again.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.