LABOUR’S branch office in Scotland needs to learn to read the room.

Their leader’s coat is on a shoogly nail after the damning results of that bombshell survey from Panelbase. It showed that Labour could lose up to seven seats at the 2021 Holyrood election. The press headlines were the SNP sweeping the constituencies, while the online buzz was the fascinating permutations of what might just happen to the independence list vote. However, the real story of the poll might be the continuing decline and fall of Scottish Labour.

What Richard Leonard, or indeed other Scottish Labour politicians, think about this damning survey is anyone’s guess; it’s all quiet on Labour’s northern front, and Leonard is conspicuous by his absence. Perhaps he has got nothing new to say. Perhaps this is the nub of the problem.

The survey follows on a series of recent polls that show increasing support for a second referendum on independence. Faith in Scottish Labour is at an all-time low. Leonard’s chamber performance at Holyrood has been uninspiring, with repeated mistakes on the difference between devolved and reserved matters, a rookie error from any MSP, never mind a party leader.

READ MORE: Richard Leonard's future in doubt as Scottish Labour bomb in polls

So far, new London Labour boss Sir Keir Starmer is standing by his man in Scotland, saying he has the right stuff to take the party into the elections next year. But Starmer is obviously worried as he has promised to spend more time in Scotland to “assist” Leonard, as a way of bolstering support for the ailing party north of the Border. That is exactly the same refrain as his predecessors Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, and a fat lot of good it did them – no tartan scarfs please.

Like Corbyn, neither the patrician Starmer nor the plebeian Leonard seem able to catch the mood of the Scottish people. Starmer has already set his stall on any second independence referendum, refusing to recognise the growing support for indyref2 and reviving the ancient “federalism” idea for the umpteenth time. They used to say that devolution was taking longer than evolution but Labour’s retread of federalism is as ancient as the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.

He’s also paying little note to Scotland’s voice on Brexit, failing to push for an extension to the transition deadline as desired by Scottish voters, and failing to push for a bespoke exit plan for Remain-voting Scotland. It would seem that in this sorry tale of two leaders north and south, the democratic choices of Scotland don’t really matter.

READ MORE: Gerry Hassan: Scottish Labour are in a tailspin, but there is one way out

And here’s another inconvenient truth for Labour’s disastrous duo. Last summer, a Lord Ashcroft poll found that 40% of Scottish Labour voters actually support independence, almost half of their core base. And a YouGov/Times poll back in January revealed that 77% of Labour members either support or are open to supporting an independence referendum in Scotland. These are some big messages from a rebellious crew for the captains to ignore when the ship is sinking and holed below the political waterline.

There is an obvious flaw in Labour’s attempted rebrand as the “voice of the Union”. There already exists a shoutier version of this same voice which is the Tory party. It will be really difficult to outshout the foghorn of Rule Britannia, destroyer of devolution and crusher of Scottish dissenters. George C Wallace, the late Governor of Alabama, once boasted that he could not be “out-segged”. Labour will never “out-Brit” the Tories.

So why is Starmer not able to read the writing beyond Hadrian’s Wall? For starters, everything about Labour is seen through a London prism – how to reclaim the hot seat in Number 10. That tunnel-vision thinking has led to two grave errors.

Firstly, the belief that they cannot get back to power without regaining Scotland. Not so. To beat the Tories crucially depends on the number of Tory seats, not the number of Labour ones. It is the “red wall” seats of northern England that Labour need to retake to gain power.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer's indyref2 stance 'will lose Scotland for a generation'

Secondly, Labour have drawn exactly the wrong lesson from the 2015 election. They are terrified of the Tories using the offer of a “progressive alliance” to portray Starmer as a puppet dangling on a Scottish rope, just as the Tory black arts machine successfully painted Miliband fives years ago. But in reality it was Miliband’s own incompetence which kept him from the Downing Street rose garden. When your opponent accuses you of scheming with the Nats to get into Number 10, then your answer should be “good – you have conceded the election” and then move on and up and into office.

WHICH leads back nicely to the whys, whats, whens, whos and wheres of increased support for independence. Every daft pronouncement from Scotland’s Prince of the Union with the Crooked Crown Jackson Carlaw adds fuel to the fire of independence. And so does every sneaky manoeuvre to power grab our devolution by PM wannabe Michael Gove. And the Labour contribution to the independence cause is Leonard and Starmer’s self-defeating statements of support for the vital continuation of this very disunited kingdom.

Because this is the real political story of the UK at the moment. Beyond Brexit, beyond Cummings’s petty “hard rain” and explosive restructuring of every British institution he doesn’t like, beyond Johnson’s combined self-interest and dangerous disinterest in actual civilians, beyond Carlaw and Leonard’s rapidly diminishing credibility, and now beyond Labour’s great new hope in Starmer, Scotland is leaving. The Union is breaking, the four nations are drifting apart.

Just like any relationship that is past its sell-by date, we’ve outgrown each other. But in this case, as Labour refuse to bend to the will of the people, they should remember the old adage – if you don’t bend then you will break.