NEIL Findlay has promised to put Scottish Labour at the heart of the campaign against renewing Britain's nuclear deterrent if he wins the party leadership next month.

The MSP said he would lobby a future Labour government to abandon plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system based at Faslane and Coulport on the Clyde.

First Minister-elect Nicola ­Sturgeon said at the weekend the SNP would only prop up a Labour government in a hung Westminster parliament if it agreed not to site a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday, Mr Findlay said he shared Ms Sturgeon's opposition to Trident.

Commenting later, he said: "Defence is, and has to be, a reserved issue, but there is ­nothing wrong with the Scottish Labour Party making the case inside the wider Labour Party and, in due course, inside government that the UK doesn't need and can't afford nuclear weapons.

"That's what I'll do.

"Unlike the nationalists I don't just want to shift the UK's nuclear weapons - I want to see them dismantled and the enormous amount of money they cost put to better use."

He added: "Unlike Government at Scottish and UK level I'll take defence diversification seriously. "It's an often overlooked tragedy that so many of our most skilled workers have little alternative but to use their skills servicing weaponry rather than something more productive."

The Lothian MSP's comments put him at odds with leadership frontrunner Jim Murphy, who has stressed Labour is "not a unilateralist party".

In her first speech as SNP leader on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon told the party conference a ­minority Labour government would have to "think again" about deploying a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde if it had to rely on SNP votes to remain in power.

Her comments were echoed yesterday by SNP MSP Bill Kidd, who said: "Neil Findlay might now claim he is opposed to Trident renewal, but the fact is that this is just one of many issues his party find themselves hamstrung on, with any opposition from Labour in Scotland likely to be stamped on by the party in London.

"By contrast, a Westminster Labour government forced to rely on SNP votes would have to think again on Trident renewal.

"The stronger our voice, the greater the influence Scotland has at Westminster."

A final decision on whether to renew Trident will be taken in 2016.

The decision has been put back until after May's elections because of disagreements between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister David Cameron supports a like-for-like renewal of the UK's existing submarine-based system, the LibDems say the same level of protection could be provided if the number of submarines was reduced from four to three to save money.

Labour have said they are "open" to the idea of a scaled- back plan.

The Government has put the bill for replacing Trident at £20 billion, though opponents claim the full cost would be five times that amount.

Left-winger Mr Findlay's pledge came as he called for greater autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party.

He also said Holyrood should have the power to bring the ­railways into public ownership and to buy out private contracts in the public sector. He voiced opposition to tuition fees for higher education and repeated his promise to build 50,000 homes for rent if he leads Labour to victory in the 2016 Holyrood election.

The three leadership ­candidates, Mr Findlay, Mr Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack, began a series of hustings at the weekend.

But the scale of the task facing the new leader was again highlighted by a new polling analysis from the SNP.

It suggested the Nationalists were between 18 and 22 points ahead of Labour in the fight for Westminster seats next May.