JEREMY Corbyn has insisted he is a Socialist not a Unionist, making clear that he is the Labour leadership candidate best-placed to win back the thousands of Scots who have switched allegiance to the SNP.

The Islington North MP argued that “the Union of itself” did not end austerity, health inequality and poor housing.

“Only a radical political programme guarantees those things,” he declared. “That’s why what we were doing in Scotland last week - and will be doing again - is something that does offer an alternative and is therefore attractive to working class Scots to stay within the UK in order to achieve those things.”

The left-winger revealed that he had never once ventured to Scotland to campaign during last year’s referendum because he was “doing stuff” in London and believed it was a decision for the Scottish people to make not him.

As more than 600,000 ballots began to be delivered, Mr Corbyn, with four weeks to go to the result, remains well in the lead, according to the polls.

Developments in the last 24 hours have included:

*David Miliband, the ex-Foreign Secretary, backed modernising candidate Liz Kendall and claimed a Corbyn victory risked creating a “one-governing-party state” dominated by the Tories;

*Andy Burnham insisted there was a "good deal of common ground" between himself and Mr Corbyn on major policies like transport and education but warned there was a "real risk of division" following the increasingly bitter leadership contest and urged the party to unite and

*Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall denied reports Labour peer Lord Mandelson had approached them to suspend the election by persuading the pair and Mr Burnham to drop out en masse.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Corbyn, asked if he would describe himself as a Unionist, said: “No. I would describe myself as a Socialist. I would prefer the UK to stay together, yes, but I recognise the right of people to take the decision on their own autonomy and independence.” The backbencher made clear he did not describe himself as a Unionist because the Tories were known as the "Conservative and Unionist Party".

He went on: “I would hope that we can offer a sufficiently radical economic agenda for the whole of the UK that will ensure that all those traditions of Labour in Scotland, in Wales for that matter as well as in England do come together within the party.”

Mr Corbyn claimed that Labour’s decision to campaign alongside the Tories during the independence referendum had been “a huge mistake; because it suggested the most important thing was to link up with the Tories to get that message across rather than to offer a political alternative that would excite Scottish people”.

He explained: “So you have a Tory government imposing cuts and austerity all over the UK, including Scotland, and it is letting Labour front up the campaign and saying nothing itself. A lot of people in Scotland, particularly Labour voters, were not impressed with the close relationship with the Tories during that referendum and we’re paying a price for it.”

But the backbencher was asked how Labour, recovering from the deepest of political holes, could hope to revive in time to lead the campaign in a second referendum should First Minister Nicola Sturgeon call one before 2020?

“By offering an alternative economic strategy which addresses the levels of poverty and inequality," he declared. "Look at health inequality in the UK. The worst places for this are London, Birmingham, parts of Manchester and Glasgow...If you’re poor and in a bad place, you’re poor and in a bad place.

“Labour can play a huge role in uniting people on the basis of a radical economic strategy and that’s why all of our campaign has essentially been around challenging the political agenda of austerity and it’s chiming with a lot of young people, particularly with young, working class communities in Scotland.”

Mr Corbyn, asked if teaming up with the SNP at Westminster on certain policies would undermine Labour’s challenge to them at Holyrood in 2016 and beyond, replied: “Not at all...I don’t think anyone is going to thank us or the SNP...if instead of co-operating in the Westminster Parliament to try and defeat the Welfare Reform Bill, we went into some turf war about knocking pieces out of each other. The public are going to say, hang on, we don’t want this Bill; we want all of you to oppose it.”