KEZIA Dugdale has more reason than most to remember where she was when Theresa May called a snap election. She was minutes from launching Scottish Labour’s council campaign when the news ran round the auditorium and eclipsed the proceedings.

“I was in the bizarre position of being the first UK politician to respond on TV,” she recalls. “I could see why she thought rolling the dice was a good idea, but it looks like she’s going to regret it. There’s a few days left to play for and a Labour government is within reach.”

Mrs May’s intrusion proved an ill omen. On May 4 Labour came third behind the Tories in Scotland’s councils, just as it had did at Holyrood last year. Now the party’s leader looks set to clinch the treble, with polls suggesting Labour will come third on vote share and fourth on seats behind the LibDems.

However Ms Dugdale insists a third strike won’t end her tenure, and she’s committed to leading the long-term renewal of a party she took over in a crisis after the 2015 election.

She says she expects to add to the single seat the party won last time.

“I’m confident of holding Edinburgh South,” she says. “And one to watch is East Lothian. But there are many seats where I’d expect Labour to knock thousands off SNP majorities. A lot of Lanarkshire seats feel like they’re in contention.”

What’s the doorstep pitch? “We understand you’re sick and tired of all this talk of a second independence referendum. You can trust us to be against that and against independence.

“But second to that, people are also keen to have a conversation about the economy and living standards. They want to talk about the future direction of the country.”

She cites Labour’s plan for a £10 an hour living wage and reform of the social security system as examples of the UK party’s vision, and of her own passion for education as something she wants to improve through Holyrood. But the constitution remains dominant.

Less than a year ago you said it was would be “categorically wrong” for the UK government to refuse a second referendum if most Scots wanted it. Yet now you're arguing for a vote by your own parliament for a referendum to be discounted. Why?

“The will of the people was in September 2014. It has to be respected.

“When the SNP talk about a triple lock [for a referendum] they point to the Scottish Parliament election and this election, but people vote for all sorts of reasons. A referendum represents a mandate because you are asking the people a clear one issue question, and the result of that was No. People wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. That’s the mandate that needs to be respected and that’s the one that’s utterly ignored in the First Minister’s triple lock."

Several commentators have noted the Lothians MSP is at her best when she’s angry. During a recent Holyrood debate on the 'rape clause', she excoriated Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson for supporting the UK welfare reform.

The very mention of Ms Davidson sends her into “Hulk, smash!” mode again.

“I genuinely think the rape clause is one of the most abhorrent public policy exercises I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m baffled Ruth Davidson can’t see that, or if she can see it, why hasn’t she have the gumption to do anything about it? It just disgusts me.

“In the last year she has very much enjoyed the light entertainment side of the job, with her growing public persona, at the great expense of politics and doing the right thing.”

Ms Dugdale admires Nicola Sturgeon as an inspirational female leader, but she too comes in for stinging criticism - like asking voters to elect SNP MPs who can only “shout at whoever is in power”.

She says: “Nicola was hugely popular when she became First Minister. She had so much political will to do something profound around child poverty or progressive taxes or education - she didn’t take the it and as every month has passed her popularity has fallen.

“Not only is she in decline as a figure, but she is more divisive than Alex Salmond ever was.

“If you’re a Yes voter, of course you love her. But if you’re a No voter, you cannot stand her.”

Surprisingly, given she twice voted against him becoming leader and declared him “not competent” to run her party, the one person she doesn’t turn her fire on is Jeremy Corbyn.

In fact, she almost sounds like she's got a touch of the Messianic Corbyn bug herself.

Her conversion was at the UK manifesto launch in Bradford.

“It struck me that the people in this country who really need him to be Prime Minister love him.

“People who are in desperate poverty or living with really severe disabilities or worried about their immigration status need to believe that things can be different than they are now. He represents that difference, that possibility of something better than this.”

But every time he starts talking about Scotland he puts his foot in it, doesn’t he? In recent days he’s talked about discussing a second referendum with the SNP and progressive alliances.

“No coalitions, no deals, no pacts,” she recites. “If you believe the polls we’re heading for a Labour minority administration. In that scenario there would be a Labour anti-austerity budget. The SNP either back that budget or they end up with the Tory government again. There’s no need to negotiate or compromise. It’s that simple.”

But you must be exasperated with all his inconvenient remarks?

“I’m quite relaxed about it because I expect it. He’s not a scripted robotic politician, and actually that’s a great part of his appeal."

Do you respect him? “I do, very much. I like being in his company. But he is what you see. He has believed the things he’s arguing for all his adult life. This is the time for his type of politics.”

Will he be Prime Minister in a week? “If the polls continue to increase at the same rate as they have in the past few weeks it’s absolutely possible Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister."

Would he be any good? “He’s going to radically transform this country and who it works for, so yes.” Miracles will never cease.

Next: Ruth Davidson