ONE of Scotland's most prominent trade union leaders has been removed from his post amid claims he has become a victim of a struggle at the top of the organisation.

GMB Scotland boss Harry Donaldson is now running the union's branch for supermarket giant Asda, officially to take on a 'special project' to beef up membership.

But senior sources within the union have claimed he has become collateral damage in the race to become the GMB's UK-wide boss and that he is "gutted" by the decision.

Mr Donaldson has been replaced as regional secretary by Gary Smith, until very recently a favourite to succeed Sir Paul Kenny as the GMB's next general secretary.

Mr Smith has moved to quash claims he has been sent to Scotland as part of internal politicking, sending correspondence to various GMB that he has had no pressure exerted on to withdraw from the general secretary election.

The move follows six unrelated suspensions of senior GMB officers by Mr Donaldson for what amounted to insubordination.

Only four have returned, with one confirming their departure from the union and another still absent.

Sir Paul, who some claim to be the most successful union leader of modern times and who was awarded a knighthood in June, steps down from the £120,000-a-year job after a decade at the top of the UK's third biggest union in November.

Previously the GMB’s national energy secretary, Mr Smith had been an outsider for the role but confounded expectation by securing over the three times the nominations required to stand.

Insiders claim he and Sir Paul have differing political views, with Sir Paul's acceptance of his knighthood not going down well across the board within the GMB.

Mr Smith has since withdrawn from the process and been made acting Scottish regional secretary.

One GMB source said: "Harry appears to be the victim of manoeuvrings. No-one, including Paul Kenny, really expected Gary Smith to stand any chance of becoming general secretary.

"When it looks like he does, the next thing is there's a special two-year project for Harry and Smith becomes acting regional secretary. Harry's gutted. It's a hard one for him but in the medium term it'll be a good thing for the GMB in Scotland."

The GMB currently has around 60,000 members in Scotland across both the public and private sectors, with mainly a lower-paid and ageing membership in areas such as the food and drink and care industries.

Said by senior figures in other unions to be "struggling", it took a different approach to others within the movement and came out for a No vote during the referendum.

Both Mr Donaldson and Sir Paul came to power within the union on the back of scandals, are both said to be safe pairs of hands and are known to have a good relationship.

One leading trade unionist said the much younger Mr Smith has a more radical approach to trade union politics and relations with employers.

Another said: "Gary is from Edinburgh originally and has said he has family reasons for coming back to Scotland. "He has denied Kenny forced him out and told members it was only right he withdraw from the general secretary running given the new role."

Earlier this week the acting regional secretary, who brokered one of the most stunning pay deals during the financial crisis in 2010, when 8000 British Gas engineers received an 11.3 per cent pay rise, warned that Labour should not "abandon" Trident for "solely political reasons".

A GMB spokesman said: "The reorganisation of GMB staff has taken place for operational reasons and as an internal matter GMB does not comment externally on such matters."