WE ALL know about sore losers, but there’s also such a thing as a sore winner – and they’re even more insufferable. By the looks of it, Scottish Labour is ready to don the latter title before a single vote has been cast in the upcoming General Election.

Writing in the Daily Record this Monday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he understands why many people voted Yes in the independence referendum in 2014 – because “they didn’t believe

Labour could win”. A vote for independence was a vote against the Tories, he suggests, but now Labour is here to win and put everything back on track.

It has been nearly 10 years but almost all of us are old enough to remember what actually happened in 2014, so it’s a little galling to see Sarwar claim that 45% of the highest turnout in decades voted to leave the UK because Scots simply couldn’t get enough of the Labour Party.

At the time of the referendum, 41 of Scotland’s 59 MPs were Labour. The areas with the highest support for independence – Dundee, Glasgow, and West Dunbartonshire – all had Labour MPs.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar says ‘it’s for Scottish people to decide’ future of Scotland

Sarwar might remember this because he was one of the seven Labour MPs in Glasgow. He also might recall that, the following year, all of them lost their seats to the SNP.

Does Sarwar really believe that 40 of his party’s Scottish MPs lost their jobs – and lost terribly – because people in Scotland didn’t think Labour could win? If this is the lesson that Scottish Labour has learned from a decade on the outside, good luck to them.

The way I – and the polls – remember it is that an overwhelming reason why so many voted for independence is that they were disaffected by Westminster politics. If Labour still can’t see their own role in that, a few years with them back in power will be sure to refresh the memories of voters who were so turned off by them the last time around.

Although the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners were in power in 2014, and already demonstrating just how bad things could get under their leadership, it was only four years since Labour’s 13 years in government had come to an end.

During that time we witnessed a Labour government spearhead such achievements as: the Iraq war and the lies which justified it; the demonisation of benefit claimants, asylum seekers, and Muslims; a failed “war on drugs”; a rise in poverty amongst adults without children; and a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Even this was much better than the Tories, and sadly, people might soon learn that it was better than Starmer’s Labour too. But that’s a low bar to beat, and in 2014, this was the context in which people in Scotland had become sick of a lack of positive change at Westminster.

Regardless of who they voted for, regardless of whether Labour or the Tories were in power, the outlook for the UK and all that it represented was bleak. I know, because that was exactly how I felt, only 24 and already jaded by a system I knew was broken before I was even old enough to vote. Then came the Better Together campaign, where Labour teamed up with the Conservatives to tell us what a bad idea independence was, to eat our cereal and not take any risks.

Despite its optimistic title, polling at the time found that 53% thought the Better Together campaign was more negative than positive, while fewer than one in five people disagreed with this.

It's fair, I think, to say that while independence lost, the Union certainly didn’t win.

The results of the 2015 General Election were proof of that, and of the disappointment which so many felt with Labour’s performance during the referendum campaign.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak claims 'forces of separatism are in retreat'

It was former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who famously said, on her resignation in October 2014, that the UK party treated Scotland like a “branch office”. She criticised some of her “colleagues at Westminster who think nothing has changed” despite the close referendum result.

That was the moment when Labour lost Scotland – not because the words were said out loud, but because they were true, and nothing was done about it.

It has been often said that Labour took Scotland for granted. That the party simply believed they couldn’t lose here, so they didn’t even have to try to offer something worth voting for.

People voted for the SNP in 2015, and 2017, and 2019, not because they didn’t think Labour could win, but because they didn’t think the party deserved to win.

Ten years on from the referendum and the tables have turned in Labour’s favour. At Westminster, the Tories are in disarray, they’ve had three prime ministers since the last election, they’ve been hit by scandal after scandal, including their flagrant disregard for the Covid-19 restrictions they created, and there’s a cost of living crisis which is seen as largely their fault.

(Image: PA)

In Scotland, the SNP have been plagued with their own problems which have become all too apparent to voters since Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation as first minister last February.

After a messy and polarising leadership contest last year, the recent disintegration of the Bute House Agreement and another new first minister, and former chief executive – and Sturgeon’s husband – Peter Murrell being charged in connection with an embezzlement investigation, the SNP is entering into this election in the worst conceivable circumstances.

But none of this equates to enthusiastic support for the Labour Party. In fact, polling this February found that, across the UK, two-thirds of intended Labour voters said they weren’t sure about them but thought they were better than the alternative, and a further 12% said they were voting tactically for Labour because they did not believe their first choice would win in their constituency.

Winning seats is one thing, winning hearts and minds is quite another and one which is still a distant dream for Labour. A bit of humility wouldn’t go amiss in this context, but that has never been this party’s strong suit.

One of Labour’s favourite mantras this election is that the party has changed. So why does this arrogant refusal to admit their own failings or even acknowledge the reality of their situation feel so very familiar?

Funnily enough, the interim Scottish Labour leader when Lamont resigned 10 years ago was a guy called Anas Sarwar. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s a near certainty now that Labour is going to win this election, and that they’re going to do very well in Scotland.

But unless the party takes a drastically different attitude to representing Scotland than the last time around, their presence at Westminster will only serve to boost support for independence and leave them back out in the cold.