NICOLA Sturgeon has weighed into Scottish Labour’s civil war, accusing the party of “selfish and self-indulgent” behaviour that makes it unfit to be in power.

The First Minister seized on an outbreak of infighting at the top of the party prompted by the leadership race between centrist Anas Sarwar and left-winger Richard Leonard.

She said the party had “somewhat lost touch with reality” after the two camps threw mud at each other on Wednesday amid accusations of a plot to topple former leader Kezia Dugdale.

It followed the leak of a recording of interim Scottish leader Alex Rowley at the UK Labour conference in which he endorsed Mr Leonard, despite claiming to be neutral in the race.

Mr Rowley also revealed he and others on the Left of the party had been working on a “plan” to pick a new leader before the 2021 election well before Ms Dugdale resigned last month.

It prompted one of Mr Sarwar’s aides, MSP Jackie Baillie, to accuse Mr Rowley of “plotting” Ms Dugdale’s overthrow, a claim one of Mr Leonard’s aides described as “p***”.

Mr Rowley said he was “gutted and disappointed” that what he believed was a private conversation had been made public, and said he intended to carry on as interim leader.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard had tabled a question about concessionary bus travel, giving Ms Sturgeon an opening to rip into Labour.

She said the SNP’s plans for concessionary travel were long-term and sustainable, she said: “That really is the difference between the SNP and Labour. We fight for Scotland.

“Scottish Labour just fight among themselves. It was incredible yesterday, was it not?

“We had Richard Leonard accused by Jackie Baillie of betraying every value that Labour holds dear, and then we had Richard Leonard saying that this was just the latest Jackie Baillie—” She stopped from saying more by the Presiding Officer.

Ms Sturgeon went on: “The serious issue is this. This Government continues to take the decisions that are in the interests of the people of Scotland.

“By contrast, Scottish Labour’s behaviour is selfish and self-indulgent, and it proves that it is not fit to be an Opposition, let alone a Government.”

Confronted by the media outside the parliament chamber, Mr Sarwar said admitted there were “internal spats” but denied they amounted to a civil war in the party.

He said: “I’m focused on bringing our party together and returning us back to government.

“I’m not going to get involved in the internal spats. I’m going to focus on my positive ideas for Scotland and returning a Scottish labour government.”

Mr Rowley, who was chased into the Holyrood lobby before answering questions, also denied there was a civil war in the party.

He said he was "clearly disappointed and gutted that what I thought was a private conversation was tape recorded".

He went on: “I now need to move on and get on with what I’m doing.

We have a party that wants to unite. We have a membership that wants us to get on with the job in hand, and that’s what we all need to do.

“We need to pull together, have this election, and move forward.”

Mr Leonard denied he was part of a “left wing plot” to oust Ms Dugdale.

He said: “Absolutely not. The only plot I’m involved in is the plot to get rid of the SNP, and to dethrone Nicola Sturgeon.

“There is not civil war in the labour party. We’ve got a leadership contest which is being conducted in a comradely way. That’s how it started. That’s how it shall continue.

“I’m keen that we have an open debate of policy and ideas, that’s what this leadership contest is about, and that’s what I’ll be sticking to.”