JACK McConnell has risked alienating his colleagues and local voters by blasting part of his constituency as a "pigsty". The first minister also described Motherwell town centre as "dirty" and "untidy".

He further named and shamed several other Labour towns for apparently failing to show enough "civic pride".

McConnell's remarks were made in an interview with the Sunday Herald, published today on the eve of this week's Holyrood election. The Scottish Labour leader is trying to hold on to his job after a bruising four-week campaign against a resurgent SNP.

Now he has turned his fire on the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency, which he has represented for eight years. He said the Labour-controlled area reflected "careless, thoughtless decision-making" and condemned his local town centres.

He added: "The town centre here in Wishaw has never been properly thought through for the last 20 years. That town centre in Motherwell is a pigsty. It's dirty, it's untidy, it's ... bad planning decisions, bad architectural decisions, and it needs radical surgery."

He said Scotland's cities were doing "really well", but said several other towns gave him cause for concern.

"We've got a problem beyond the cities. These small provincial towns like Motherwell, Wishaw, Paisley ... Alloa, Cumbernauld, Dunfermline. The town centre almost symbolises a lack of civic pride and something in the public realm that had a lack of commitment to quality of life in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s," he said.

He then blamed the plight of Scotland's towns on decisions made by successive governments. "We've got to break that dependency culture that was generated partly by the Labour policies of the 1970s and partly by the Tory economic decline of the 1980s."

Labour's solution is to give new "town centre trusts" powers to regenerate local areas, allowing them to take over derelict land. But McConnell's comments have raised eyebrows because many of the so-called blackspots have been run for years by Labour politicians.

Motherwell has had a Labour MP for more than half a century. The local authority, North Lanarkshire, has been solidly Labour since its creation in the 1990s, as was the old Motherwell District Council. Many of the other towns he criticised are Labour run. Marion Fellows, the SNP candidate in Motherwell and Wishaw, said: "The Labour Party has been in office locally for 50 years and has been in government for 10 years, but Jack McConnell has not lifted a finger to aid our town centres."

Carolyn Leckie, an SSP candidate in Central Scotland, said: "It's Jack McConnell's party that has been in power since 1997. If anybody is to blame for the town centres, it is Labour."

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire said: "A programme of investment is planned in all of our town centres."