It's not pretty, but there's only one way forward for Scottish Labour now

Labour's best hope of turning the SNP tide is to focus on the Conservatives.

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Scotland’s independence referendum was supposed to have been consigned to political history the moment David Cameron stepped into the Downing Street sunshine on the morning of September 19th last year to declare the Union remained intact.

Wrong. The polls as well as the political discourse of recent months show we are living through a continuation of the referendum.

In the days immediately after that dramatic and historic poll on Scotland's future I asked whether the Yes camp could continue as a viable political movement?

‘No chance’ came the response from senior Scottish commentators, with one rather sniffilly saying “this #45 party stuff is a non-starter.”

What was not foreseen was the extraordinary way in which pro-independence voters would coalesce around the Scottish National Party.

It now boasts over 100,000 members and is riding high on the back of a slew of predictions the nationalists may end up with as many as 50 MPs on May 8th. This is staggering stuff for a party which has never had more than 11 seats at Westminster.

To date what might be termed the ‘Scottish Question’ has had a profound effect on both Labour and Conservative election strategists and will continue to dominate headlines throughout the short campaign.

If their poll numbers stand up over the next five weeks or so then Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond (a serious candidate in the seat of Gordon) - will find themselves in a blissful win-win situation.

A Tory victory of any kind will simply drive more Scots into the arms of the nationalists. Should Labour emerge as the largest party there's the prospect of the SNP shaping policy on all manner of things from taxation to Trident.

On top of that a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote, leaving the SNP as the third largest party in British politics, would see a number of official privileges head their way.

These are likely to include regular questions at PMQs and a seat on every Commons committee.  Enough to drive the good citizens of the Home Counties perfectly berserk.

It’s no secret that the election will be fiendishly close and Scottish voters will no doubt relish being at the heart of the action.

However they must also realise - especially in what was formerly considered Labour heartlands - their individual votes matter a great deal to the future of the whole UK.

In those seats which were the bedrock of Labour support going back to the days of Red Clydeside socialism folk will need to have a hard old think about where they intend placing their cross come polling day.

The battle now being played out on doorsteps in Glasgow (a city which voted Yes) and well beyond, is about what a vote for the SNP amounts to.

Does it, as many hope, return a Labour government with a strong Scottish/nationalist arm to make sure Ed Miliband stays true to his left wing instincts?

Alternatively might it allow David Cameron back into Downing St for a second term? High stakes stuff indeed.

Labour have little option but to make a forthright appeal to disaffected supporters, saying ‘look we know you are angry, we get it, but we are not the enemy’.

They will also seek to highlight how Scots bear the scars of the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions, zero hours contracts and in-work poverty, just as much as those living elsewhere.

Those flirting with the SNP can expect to get the message loud and clear – time and again - that there are real consequences to supporting Sturgeon’s insurgency.

There is rightly some expectation in Labour circles that Caledonian hearts will harden as polling day nears.

Will that be enough to haul more Labour MPs over the finishing line than currently predicted?

Well as they say in Scotland, that may yet be a 'sair fecht', and a scrap to put even the referendum campaign in the shade.

Douglas Beattie is a journalist, TSSA union officer, author of The Rivals Game, Happy Birthday Dear Celtic, and The Pocket Book of Celtic, and a Labour Councillor based in London. He worked at BBC News for 12 years.