A new Labour MSP has warned that the party will lose more support if it retains its “muddled priorities” on the constitution.
Carol Mochan raised the issue in the wake of Scottish Labour suffering its worst ever result in a Holyrood election, with the party returning 22 MSPs.
Ms Mochan insisted results in Scotland “could have been worse” for her party – noting that Labour lost the Hartlepool seat at Westminster and “many English councils” in voting on May 6.
But she said if the vote for the Scottish Parliament had taken place using a first past the post system, Labour north of the border would be “heading for Liberal Democrat levels of annihilation”.
Ms Mochan, writing in the forthcoming issue of the Scottish Left Review, insisted: “We cannot present our worst ever electoral performance in a Scottish Parliament election as a good result.”
With Holyrood having a majority of independence supporting MSPs – with 64 SNP members elected along with eight Greens – she was clear it was now “impossible” for Labour to “claim there is not an appetite in a large part of the country for another referendum”.
Ms Mochan, an MSP for the South of Scotland, said she had been a “candidate and a campaigner in innumerable elections now in which Scottish Labour has campaigned on an unclear constitutional platform”.
And on this key issue, she added that the party’s membership was “for the most part split”.
While she said previous Labour leaders had backed reforming the devolution settlement, the new MSP said that this had “never seriously come to fruition”.
Ms Mochan, the secretary of the Campaign for Socialism group within Scottish Labour, added: “It is obvious that the notion of federalism remains largely academic with little public support.
“If we reach the next Scottish Parliament election with the same muddled priorities, I think it is more than likely our vote will drop further.”
SNP MSP Tom Arthur said: “Throughout the election campaign Scottish Labour sat on the fence and refused to acknowledge that a majority of people in Scotland want to put their future into their own hands – not Boris Johnson’s.
“And by doing so, Scottish Labour continues to alienate its own members – with recent polling showing that one-third of them back a post-pandemic referendum on Scotland’s future.
“Labour’s refusal to acknowledge Scotland’s right to choose our own future opens the door for the Tories to impose devastating austerity and callous policies on the people of Scotland, plunging thousands of families into poverty and putting vital public services and workers’ rights at risk.
“The reality for Labour is that the people of Scotland have spoken and have sent an emphatic message that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands. Labour must recognise that if they are to have any chance of remaining relevant.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “We’re on a journey to build a credible alternative to the SNP.
“We ran an energetic and enthusiastic campaign, which put Labour back on the pitch and is something for us to build on for the next five years.
“Our campaign for a national recovery defined the election campaign, and we will take that energy into the Scottish Parliament.”