SCOTTISH Labour's new deputy leader has called for a referendum to decide whether Britain renews the Trident nuclear deterrent and said left winger Jeremy Corbyn would make a "first class" boss of the UK party.

Alex Rowley, who became party number two last weekend, also revealed that he is putting his political career on the line at next year's Holyrood election by pledging to quit his new job if he is not re-elected in his Cowdenbeath constituency.

In his first major interview since winning the deputy contest, the former Fife Council leader warned that it was "obvious" that his party must change and regain trust or face annihilation in Scotland.

On Trident, he said he did not believe the case had been made for renewal, potentially signalling a split at the top of the party. Party leader Kezia Dugdale has said a debate over Trident at October's party conference is "not impossible", but is known to favour multilateral disarmament meaning international agreements would be struck before Britain's nuclear arsenal is reduced or eliminated.

While Labour has not supported unilateral disarmament since 1987, Mr Rowley said party members should have their say over renewal of the Clyde-based weapons system, believing the decision is so significant it should be put to a national vote.

"It's a massive issue, and there's been no debate within Labour, or within the country," he said. "It is a military issue, with serious question marks over whether it is the best way to defend the country, but it's also a moral issue.

"On such a massive issue, there should be debate across the party, the country, and a referendum. I have not seen the case made as to why we would renew, but the most striking thing is a complete lack of debate."

Mr Rowley is to push ahead with plans to create a far more autonomous party north of the border, saying he recognised the stinging criticisms of former leader Johann Lamont when she described Scottish Labour as being run like a "branch office" from London, with previous attempts by Jim Murphy to emphasise Scottish Labour's independence seen as "a gimmick".

He will move to give members a greater say over policy, in line with a pledge from Ms Dugdale, saying one of the "tragedies" of the New Labour era was that internal debate was "shut down".

He would not publicly reveal who he is backing for the UK leadership, saying he would work with whoever won. However, he strongly hinted that he supported Mr Corbyn, despite Ms Dugdale warning that a victory for the MP risked leaving the party "carping on the sidelines".

He added: "All I would say is that I'm very encouraged by the type of debate taking place within the Labour Party at grassroots level... I want to see a progressive Labour Party, and we need change.

"On the question of Jeremy Corbyn and attacks that have come his way in terms of electability, I have no fears whatsoever that if the Labour membership elect him, he [wouldn't be] be a first class leader. I have read his policy agenda and there is not a lot in there I would disagree with."

Mr Rowley has already promised not to take the automatic place at the top of the party list he is entitled to, which would guarantee a Holyrood seat. But he went further by revealing he has no intention of seeking a list slot at all, saying it would be "defeatist" and that his position signalled his determination to win back trust.

He said Labour would set out a clear policy platform to address unacceptable levels of poverty and inequality in the months ahead, with homelessness, housing, health and social care and youth unemployment key concerns. He did not rule out proposing to use new powers for Holyrood to increase taxes on the rich to fund better public services.

Mr Rowley added that he was unconcerned at reports that Ms Dugdale privately backed Richard Baker for the deputy leadership, saying she had his complete support. The 51-year-old dismissed suggestions that a poor performance next year would lead to pressure for her to resign, saying Ms Dugdale would remain leader for "many, many years" meaning he would be too old to stand for the leadership when she eventually stood down.

On the issue of further devolution, he said measures set out in the Scotland Bill would not be "the end of the journey", and called for a "friendlier, open discussion" about what should remain under Westminster control.

He added: "I campaigned for a No vote because I believed it was in Scotland's best interest to have significant devolved power. Whether it's full fiscal autonomy or other powers, if it can be demonstrated it's in Scotland's best interest to go down that road then that's what I'll support. We can't keep closing the debate down, and end up with a country divided."