There's a fascinating piece of speculation on Eric Joyce's blog today that a post-apocalypse Scottish Labour might reinvent itself as a proper Scottish party separate from the London organisation, and then perform the ultimate act of triangulation by embracing independence and actively campaigning for it. At first glance, the idea seems totally ludicrous, but I must admit it's occurred to me before in an idle sort of way. It's become abundantly clear since Jim Murphy took the reins that he and his acolytes believe in absolutely nothing (other than nuclear weapons), and are prepared to reverse almost every policy if they think it will help them win back the ex-Labour Yes voters they need to limit their losses in May and beyond. The obvious eventual destination of that process is to adopt the policy those voters feel most passionately about, ie. independence itself.
The historical precedent that suggests this might just happen can be found in the late 1980s. Labour astonished themselves by adopting soft nationalist language about popular sovereignty, and committing themselves to a devolution package that was much more radical than they had put forward when actually in government a decade earlier. Why did they do it? Partly it was triangulation - the Govan by-election demonstrated there was a huge threat on their left flank unless they could nick the SNP's clothes. But an equally important reason was that faith in the normal electoral pendulum was starting to crumble - the Thatcher government seemed utterly entrenched, and it began to look as if the only way Scottish Labour politicians could ever hope to enjoy real power again would be if they challenged the Tories' legitimacy in ruling Scotland on a small minority of the vote.
You can see how a similar perfect storm might be brewing now. If a Tory-led government is re-elected in May, and if the Scottish Labour contingent at Westminster is largely wiped out, Holyrood would for the foreseeable future be left as the only realistic avenue for aspiring (or current) Labour career politicians. If a breathtaking gesture for the benefit of Yes voters was the only way of getting the party back in the game at Holyrood, that might just begin to look like an attractive option. It would have the potential of reuniting the old Labour coalition, because left-wing anti-independence voters who truly believe in the Dunc Dinctum guff about "UK solidarity" would have nowhere else to go - much as the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn had nowhere else to go in the 1990s. It would be an immensely satisfying example of Blairite triangulation in reverse.
The snag is that there's a third component of the Labour coalition, which hasn't actually deserted the party yet - namely centrist, affluent, anti-independence voters. Those people do have somewhere else to go, because they could vote Tory or Lib Dem. So I suspect that, no matter how bleak things look for Labour after May, the most we can hope to see from them is some kind of fudge. They might embrace something much closer to Devo Max, or they might commit to another referendum in a few years' time, and promise their membership a "free vote" next time around - as Harold Wilson did in the Common Market referendum of 1975.