SCOTTISH Labour’s deputy leader is considering a u-turn by accepting the top slot on one of his party’s regional Lists for Holyrood.

Alex Rowley won the contest earlier this year after promising not to take the automatic first place on the Mid-Scotland and Fife list.

But he is now mulling over a change because it may be the only way of securing his position in the Parliament.

Rowley, who has been the Cowdenbeath MSP since 2014, became deputy leader in August after defeating the then Glasgow council leader Gordon Matheson and Holyrood colleague Richard Baker.

Under a rule change pushed through when Jim Murphy was in charge of the party, the Labour leader and deputy are guaranteed the top places on a Holyrood List.

Matheson said he would accept a top List berth if he won, but Rowley announced that he would forgo the perk.

He was instead expected to contest the List rankings along with all other potential Labour hopefuls.

Rowley made his intentions explicit in in a speech to announce his candidacy: “I am also clear that whilst the Scottish Executive Committee has decided that whoever wins the contest will receive an automatic place at the top of the regional list for the Scottish General election; if I win the Deputy Leadership contest I would not accept this automatic placement. If the situation ever arose whereby I decided to apply for the list, I will stand as an ordinary member without any preferential treatment.”

He also criticised the top slot rule: “This rule change, with its focus on the internal workings and selection processes of the party, runs a risk of becoming a distraction from the key issues facing Labour and facing Scotland.”

Rowley defeated Matheson – who was portrayed as the establishment candidate – by 55.5% to 44.5% in the contest.

However, he is considering a u-turn for two reasons: he is unlikely to hold his Cowdenbeath seat; and there is no guarantee he would secure Labour’s top spot on the List if he took his chances in an open ranking process.

Thomas Docherty, the former MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, is also going for a place on the Mid-Scotland and Fife list, and if he topped it second place would automatically go to a female candidate, leaving Rowley in a shaky third place at best.

Friends of Rowley said his deputy leader commitments would make it extremely hard to campaign actively against Docherty in the rankings, adding that the last thing the party needed was to lose a deputy at the election after the instability of the Murphy era.

They also suggested the pledge not to take up an automatic place at the top of the List had not been a big part of Rowley’s deputy leadership campaign.

However, he had flagged up the high profile pledge in a press release.

The List issue came up at a meeting yesterday of Labour’s governing Scottish Executive, at which Rowley’s allies called for him to get the automatic top place.

Rowley told the Sunday Herald: “I have listened to what has been said. I have listened to what people have said me over the last couple of weeks. This is an issue I will now reflect on and reach a decision fairly soon.”