SCOTTISH Labour’s biennial leadership crisis is upon us again. Sometimes the interval is longer. Jack McConnell lasted five and half years in the job. Sometimes it’s shorter. Jim Murphy came and went with the speed of a mayfly and the charm of a wasp. But after 18 years of devolution, Scottish Labour is to choose leader number nine. It promises to be an interesting contest. It might even matter.

The winner will arrive when the party’s fortunes are on the up. Jeremy Corbyn’s repeated message on his recent tour was Scotland's importance to him becoming Prime Minister. Of the 64 seats Labour need to win for a Westminster majority, more than a quarter are north of the border. The road to Downing Street runs straight through SNP turf.

The next Scottish leader also gets a seat on UK Labour’s ruling body and could tip its balance in favour of Mr Corbyn, taking the handbrake off the Left. The contest therefore has a national importance missing from the previous churn.

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So far, it looks like a square go between Richard Leonard in the Corbyn corner and Anas Sarwar in the centrist one. The prospect has already seen a lot of talk on the Left about a Corbyn-led revival in Scotland evidenced by six new MPs, and the need to double down with a genuinely pro-Corbyn candidate, not a born-again shapeshifter like Mr Sarwar, who wanted Mr Corbyn to give up the leadership barely a year ago.

But a hard look at the election numbers suggests the Corbyn bounce in Scotland was of the dead cat variety. Rather than Labour doing very well, the statistics show the SNP doing exceptionally badly, the Conservatives surging from a low base but rarely being in contention, and Labour edging past the SNP with relatively modest gains.

Data from the House of Commons library shows how bad the night was the SNP. The party’s share of the vote went down in all 59 Scottish seats. The Tory vote went up in 58. Indeed, the five UK constituencies with the biggest Tory increases were all in Scotland, with Alex Salmond’s Gordon seat seeing the biggest surge of all, up 29 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the five UK seats where Labour suffered its biggest falls were all in Scotland, including one of the party’s targets, Mr Murphy’s old seat of East Renfrewshire. Far from making monster gains, Labour’s saw its vote share fall in 13 Scottish seats, more than the LibDems.

All six Labour gains had the same pattern - an SNP collapse (down 16.3 percentage points on average), a big Tory rise (up 11.2 points), and a small Labour one (up 5.8 points). In three of the six, Labour’s majority was below 300. Its biggest majority was in Edinburgh South, held by the avowedly anti-Corbyn, uber-Unionist MP Ian Murray. Add in the fact most of the big LibDem collapses were also in Scotland, and it’s clear there was a surge, but it was tactical for the Tories around the constitution, not for Labour and radical Corbynism.

There were other figures for Scottish Labour to ponder this week, as the Electoral Commission released the accounts of the main parties for 2016. Most of the attention fell on UK Labour’s bulging coffers thanks to union donations, and on the SNP going £1.2m into the red. But one of the wildest facts was that Scottish Labour, at least on paper, had less income (£400k) and a smaller expenditure (£504k) than the Scottish Liberal Democrats (£772k and £592k) and even the Scottish Greens (£448k and £630k).

How on earth, in the year of a Holyrood election, could the party which started out as the official opposition be so outgunned, even by the fourth and fifth parties?

Despite Kezia Dugdale’s best efforts to make Scottish Labour more autonomous in policy and election matters, it is far from independent. It’s not even strictly a party, but an “accounting unit” of UK Labour. According to this unit’s accounts, its campaign expenditure was £539,000 in 2015 and £198,000 in 2016. But it told the Electoral Commission it spent £1.64m and £338,000 in those years. (Yes, Mr Murphy spent £1.64m, more than the SNP, for one MP.)

The difference comes from UK Labour heavily subsidising the Scottish operation. Without it, the unit would be flat broke. Hence Scottish Labour finds itself is in a bind. The election data suggests Scots are yet to be convinced by Mr Corbyn, and a pro-Corbyn leader might struggle to win them over. But the accounts show the accounting unit can’t afford to be on bad terms with the UK party as it needs its handouts, and a centrist leader might struggle on other fronts. Ms Dugdale certainly found UK Labour less than generous in the June election. An interesting contest indeed.