RICHARD Leonard's election as Scottish Labour leader would shift Holyrood "further to the left" while not harming support for independence, an influential socialist publication believes.

Leonard's defeat of Anas Sarwar in his party's leadership contest would also allow him to work with the SNP, Scottish Left Review writes in its lead editorial.

The SLR claims Leonard's election as leader would benefit "the whole of the left in Scotland" despite his opposition to independence. However, it adds that Leonard should accept that "much support for independence" is based on opposition to austerity.

Leonard would need to address the issue of alternatives to independence such as a federal UK "in a productive manner", it states.

The magazine, which is backed by senior trade union and labour movement figures, makes the claim in its forthcoming final edition of the year.

A Scottish Labour party that based its appeal on left-wing policies would place pressure on the SNP to pursue a more radical agenda, it argues.

Leonard could push the SNP to the left by challenging it more on class-based issues rather than over independence, it states.

"For the SNP-cum-Scottish Government, Leonard’s victory would, we hope, start to make it to do more than spout well-intentioned words and make it begin to make good on these by delivering on a range of socially progressive policies," the editorial says.

Labour and the SNP would "effectively" be working together on a progressive agenda, although not in a formal pact, it adds.

It believes that a rise in support for left-wing politicians such as Leonard and Jeremy Corbyn would not lead to falling support for independence.

The SLR also says that Leonard must act quickly to set out Scottish Labour's alternatives to independence.

It adds: "This general benefit for the left here is despite of the particular position Leonard takes on the issue of independence and his silence on what constitutional changes may be needed to bring about a federal or confederal future."

However, it goes onto say that the "SNP would not face such a challenge" from the left if Anas Sarwar was elected party leader. "He (Sarwar) simply does not have radical politics like Leonard."

A spokesman for Sarwar said: “Anas is the only candidate who has put forward new, radical policies in this contest, including a transformational plan to introduce a Scottish Child Tax Credit to lift 50,000 children out of poverty, using Holyrood’s powers to reverse Tory cuts to the sick and disabled, and a guaranteed job, training place or education for every school leaver."

A spokesperson from Leonard's campaign said: "It's good to see that Richard's leadership campaign is galvanising a wider debate about the direction of the left in Scotland."

The SLR is not formally affiliated to Labour.