STEVEN Purcell, the disgraced former leader of Glasgow City Council, has been banned from working for one of the city's new Labour MSPs.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray is understood to have blocked list MSP Anne McTaggart from putting Purcell on the public payroll.

McTaggart, a former social worker who owes her political career to Purcell, was told it would be unwise to hire him during a meeting with Gray last week, the Sunday Herald has learned.

According to senior party sources, Gray intervened amid rumours at Holyrood that McTaggart wanted Purcell as her assistant.

Purcell already works unpaid in the office of Glasgow North West Labour MP John Robertson, and a switch to working for an MSP would not have been a great transition.

However, Purcell’s reputation caused Gray to “pre-empt” McTaggart, according to sources.

Purcell, 38, had been touted as a potential leader of Scottish Labour until he stood down last year after suffering a breakdown and checking into a rehab clinic.

He later admitted having a drink problem and taking cocaine while overseeing Glasgow’s £2 billion budget, and that senior police officers had warned him drug use could make him vulnerable to blackmail by gangsters.

A senior Labour source at Holyrood said: “Iain pre-empted [a job] and said that it would be a bad idea to employ Purcell.”

A Glasgow Labour source added that Purcell was anxious to work for McTaggart as it could be a first step on a political comeback, while she wanted his help at Holyrood.

The source said: “Two years ago she was chair of a PTA. Now she’s an MSP. She’s not a bad person, but she’s [got] no political acumen. The former leader of the council is not pleased at this turn of events.”

McTaggart, 41, became a Glasgow councillor in June 2009 through a by-election in Purcell’s political base of Anniesland.

Labour had never had a list MSP in Glasgow, because it held so many constituencies. However, a series of SNP gains on May 5 propelled McTaggart and two others from the Glasgow list into Holyrood.

McTaggart denied that Gray warned her off Purcell during their 20-minute meeting, but added: “I can definitely tell you that I will not be employing Steven Purcell.”

Purcell could not be contacted for comment last night.