Land reform and support for the rights of crofters and tenant farmers has for over a century been a keystone Liberal value; a symbol of what the party has stood for. "The Land" with its clarion call for reform is the anthem of Liberalism. Since the days of Gladstone, the party has stood up against landowner vested interests, backed invariably by the Tories.
Until now. This week in a Scottish Parliament committee on the Land Reform Bill, Jim Hume MSP for the Liberal Democrats voted with the Tories against enhanced protection for tenant farmers. As Scottish commentator Lesley Riddoch put it, "shameful for the party that introduced land rights for crofters in 1886".
Hume has form, having recently voted against introducing Marine Protection Areas.
But what this serves to emphasise is not only the disastrous decline of the Lib Dems in Scotland and in particular rural Scotland; but the party's total lack of vision and direction.
Since at least the 2014 referendum, the battle of ideas in Scottish politics has been vacated by Labour and the Lib Dems. Astonishing in a country with a proud history of radicalism, the work of groups like the Liberal Futures group is sadly ignored by too many. Radical politics is alive and well; but exclusively on the pro-independence side of the divide through groups like Common Weal. As Riddoch points out, the opportunity even exists for Scotland to deliver the Liberal holy grail of a Land Value Tax; it was one of three options set out by a cross-party commission on local taxation which reported in late 2015, alongside a local income tax. The Scottish Lib Dems have been silent on the subject.
With only tentative steps taken towards the reform of Scotland's land laws (the land is in the ownership of fewer people than in any country in the developed world) under the Lib-Lab government in Holyrood from 1999-2007, the Nationalists have moved from inertia to strengthening legislation. It appears this political territory has been entirely ceded by the Lib Dems, in spite of the party's consistently strong support in rural Scotland through the darkest days of the last century and until the recent SNP landslides.
Liberals have since last May's catastrophe talked (though not always acted) about clarifying and defining Liberal values in order to give the Liberal Democrats an identity and detoxify the party from association with hated Tory policies. In Scotland where the party alienated 45% of the population by identifying itself as 'unionist' and where the Tories are hated even more, learning from past mistakes is at least as important.
Instead - and with the right wing political market crowded and a relatively popular Scottish Tory leader in Ruth Davidson, the mistakes are being compounded and repeated.
The party in Scotland has an opportunity to partially redeem itself in March by voting the right way. However, the obituary for its abject performance in May's election and possible wipeout could be written now. It urgently needs to present a coherent picture of what it stands for.