PAUL Sweeney, the Shadow Scotland Office minister, has today backed Richard Leonard as the next leader of Scottish Labour.

The MP for Glasgow North East said it had been a difficult decision because the party was blessed with two strong candidates to succeed Kezia Dugdale but he believed “on balance” the MSP for Central Scotland, who launches his campaign tomorrow in Glasgow, was the better candidate over his rival, Anas Sarwar.

“The work I did with Richard on industrial strategy was inspiring,” declared Mr Sweeney. “He will bring a radical policy agenda and a new, fresh perspective. His relative lack of public profile is actually an asset for him. He will be able to press the reset button and start a whole new era for Scottish Labour.”

He added: “We need to move the debate in Scotland away from the constitution onto issues that people face in their everyday lives.”

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn’s office made clear that the Labour leader would “not be taking any part in the election” and would not be expressing a preference between Mr Leonard or Mr Sarwar.

His spokesman said: “What the Labour Party wants to see is the largest possible participation of members and supporters and trade unionists in that process.”

He added: “Of course, Jeremy will work with whoever is elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party.”

Mr Sweeney's colleague at Westminster Danielle Rowley, the MP for Midlothian, is the campaign manager for Mr Leonard while another colleague Martin Whitfield, the MP for East Lothian, is the co-chair of Mr Sarwar's campaign.