SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard has said that the “creation of a separate Scottish state is perfectly feasible”.

Leonard's comments come as the new Scottish Labour leader attempts to soften Labour's position in order to appeal to independence supporters who are attracted by Jeremy Corbyn's left wing prospectus.

However, Jim Sillars - a one-time Labour MP who went on to become depute leader of the SNP - poured scorn on Leonard's strategy.

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Sillars warned that English voters would keep the Tories in power at Westminster against the wishes of Scots at the next UK general election.

Sillars said a Corbyn defeat would expose the “emptiness” of Leonard’s bid to woo left-wing independence supporters, and lead to an upswing in support for independence.

Leonard, a close ally of Corbyn, also promised to “forge radical change” in 2018 with a plan for a federal UK as an alternative to independence.

He said that despite his opposition to independence he accepted a separate Scottish state would be possible.

Senior Labour figures repeatedly claimed ahead of the 2014 referendum that an independent Scotland would face ruin. However, Leonard has set out to shift Labour's stance.

Leonard said: “While the creation of a separate Scottish state is perfectly feasible it would defeat rather than advance the higher cause of economic democracy that we so badly need to strive for. Nationalism is not a short cut to socialism.”

Leonard hinted that Scottish Labour would embrace a more radical stance on federalism in the New Year.

He said: “Scottish Labour’s position is one of federalism – something I’ve argued for over many years – which allows disparate parts of the UK to find solutions to their own regional economic needs, while at the same time being part of a greater whole with all the benefits that entails.

"The party’s constitutional convention, which I know my interim deputy and shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird, is keen to get going, will forge that radical change.”

However, Sillars, a veteran leftwing supporter of independence, said Leonard's strategy would "disastrously" fail.

Sillars remains an SNP member, but has previously said he would rejoin a left-wing Labour party in an independent Scotland.

However, he predicted a repeat of elections in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Scots, who overwhelmingly voted Labour, were denied their choice of government by a Tory-dominated England.

Sillars said Corbyn's failure to win in England would be the “basis of a new drive to independence”.

"Faced with another Tory Government, we have again the political equation that was the breeding ground for the independence movement," Sillars predicted.

Sillars did, though, say he thought that Corbyn and Leonard would “outflank the SNP on the left” - and in a highly controversial claim, he said the SNP was not a “genuine left party”.

As a result, Sillars believes, the SNP will suffer losses to Labour in Scotland's Central Belt at the next Westminster and Holyrood elections.

He claimed swathes of independence supporters would vote for Corbyn to oust the Tories,

Sillars said many would also be attracted by Leonard's pledge to deliver a Corbynite agenda at Holyrood.

However, Sillars believes a mass Tory mobilisation in England against Corbyn will lead to a UK Labour defeat.

Sillars warned that would mean Thatcherite policies would be imposed on Scotland from Westminster.

He said "devolution’s limited powers provide no defence" against such a right-wing agenda, whether Leonard becomes First Minister or not.

Sillars said: "We have been here before. In 1992, Neil Kinnock’s Labour looked like a winner, and Labour did well on that belief in Scotland. But winner it wasn’t, because England voted Tory again. I think that will be the case at the next Westminster elections.

"While I am sure Corbyn will be able to mobilise a big Labour vote in England, he will also mobilise a big Tory vote to make sure he doesn’t win."

Sillars said that if English voters kept the Tories in Downing Street, it would lead to a revival of the independence campaign.

He added: "Initially, it would be drowned in the noise of Unionists rejoicing, crowing with glee at the certainty of no second referendum on independence.

"But that sorrowful scenario would depend on one political factor over which Scottish Labour has no control - how the English vote.

"If Corbyn cannot win there, then the first rule of the Union kicks in - that we again get again a Tory Government we rejected, against which devolution’s limited powers provide no defence.

"The Leonard claim will be shown false, and disastrously so.

"Whatever the relationship between the movement and the SNP, the failure of Corbyn to deliver England, which will reveal the emptiness of Leonard’s position, will be the basis of a new drive to independence."

Leonard and Sillars set out their competing visions in separate pieces for the forthcoming edition of an influential political magazine - the Scottish Left Review.

SNP MSP George Adam accused Leonard of having "radical pretensions" while opposing the devolution of powers over areas such as employment rights.

Adam said: "Richard Leonard seems to think that being tied to Westminster Tory governments we didn't vote for advances the cause of 'economic democracy' - that position is just completely absurd.

"In fact, it was Labour who blocked the devolution of key powers such as employment rights to Scotland - showing up Labour's promises of federalism for the tired soundbites they are.

"The only way to ensure all powers over the economy come to Scotland is through independence."