THE politician touted by some as Scotland's Jeremy Corbyn gives an ironic chuckle as he walks into the regal surroundings of the visitor cafe at the Royal Palace at Holyrood to talk about his bid to lead Scottish Labour.

"I hope we don't get arrested," Richard Leonard says as he sits down at the back of the cafe that overlooks the Queen's official residence in Scotland to chat about his unapologetically socialist campaign platform.

Leonard insists a Scottish Labour Party led by him would base its challenge to the SNP on a left-wing prospectus.

"I think the SNP do seek to appeal to a social democratic audience in Scotland (and) sometimes in the past Labour has allowed them to make that appeal un-interfered," he says.

Just weeks after Dugdale's shock resignation, it's been suggested that Leonard, who is little known outside his party, has pulled ahead of his high-profile rival Anas Sarwar for Scottish Labour's top job.

"I'm not a Corbynista, I'm too long in the tooth to be a Corbynista," the 55-year-old says when asked about his manifesto, which nonetheless appears to have galvanised Corbyn's supporters in Scotland.

Leonard's own policy platform that includes plans for worker ownership of ailing firms is one that some say has outgunned Sarwar in the way Corbyn did to his opponents in 2015 and 2016. Yet there will still be those asking 'who is this politician who at his campaign launch proclaimed he was standing to be Labour's next First Minister?'

"There's nothing I can do to change the fact I was born in Yorkshire, but I've chosen to live in Scotland," says Leonard who is settled in Paisley, but was born in Malton, a market town located half way between York and Scarborough.

Despite arriving in Scotland as a student in 1980 Leonard still speaks with a Yorkshire twang. "I've lived all my adult working life in Scotland," he says.

"My family's here," he says of his wife Karen, an organiser for GMB Scotland, and his two grown-up children in their twenties, a son and step-daughter. "I feel as though I belong to Scotland. These are the communities I've worked for and I'd like to do that as a Labour First Minister," he says of a gameplan that could see him become the first politician born in England to occupy the role.

Unlike Sarwar, whose backstory is familiar as part of a Glasgow political dynasty, little is known of Leonard's roots.

"All of our experiences in life, whether it's our experiences in education or in families, shape us and that shaped me as well," he says when asked about his private school education.

It's something he has in common with Sarwar, although the backgrounds of the two could scarcely be more different. Sarwar's education as a Glasgow's Hutchesons' Grammar School pupil was paid for by the wealth of his father, the cash-and carry tycoon and Britain's first Muslim MP, Mohammad Sarwar.

Leonard, whose parents worked in textile factories in Leeds, won a scholarship to a private school in Pocklington, East Yorkshire. "I suppose it made me more aware of the opportunities that some people have that others didn't, because I was lucky enough to gain entry with a sponsorship from a local authority which meant I went to a school I wouldn't have gone to," he says of his schooling.

Leonard expresses views on the thorny issue of private education that's at odds with his rival, despite his refusal to attack Sarwar for sending his children to Hutchesons'. "I was only 11 at the time, so I won't pretend I had a fully-formed political outlook at that point. But it also made me aware of the class system."

Leonard talks about the problems of an "elitist education system", drawing on his own experiences, but not mentioning Sarwar. Arguably he doesn't have to. Leonard says that "having a system where you can buy education is something which allows people with great wealth to buy their way into it".

He says he is against abolishing private education but insists it "should be treated with equanimity compared to the state sector" and backs ending to the charitable status of independent schools.

On his politicisation as a student at Stirling University Leonard says: "I came to university in 1980 when Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister just a year before so there were huge swingeing cuts to higher education."

Leonard, whose 81-year-old mother remains in Yorkshire, speaks of a "huge personal cost" of that era, when his father was forced to move to Suffolk for work following factory closures in the early 1980s.

He says: "The factory where dad worked closed down so they had to seek work elsewhere and eventually got a job in Suffolk. There was a brutality to it."

Leonard went on to work as an economist for the Scottish Trades Union Congress in the 1990s on policy proposals "to drive the agenda for the Scottish Parliament".

He says: "We also wanted the Scottish Parliament to be a bulwark against Tory policies of de-industrialisation, monetarism, attempts to roll back the state and tie up trade unions. Today we're seeing those same Tory values prevailing."

Leonard, who also spent 20 years as a GMB organiser, says that Scottish Labour "missed" the chance to switch from being a party that talked mainly about the constitution to one that based its appeal on a fairer distribution of wealth and power. He also maintains that "there needs to be an improvement in relations between Scottish Labour and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party”.

But Leonard's pledge to end a “wariness” between the two could prove a tough early task if he is elected leader on November 18.