SCOTTISH Labour has launched an early General Election offensive by targeting key seats where the SNP holds a slim majority.

Hundreds of activists will door-knock residents across five constituencies this weekend where the Nationalists lead by less than 1,625 votes.

It marks the first of multiple “action days” the party plans throughout 2018 as it remains on an election footing to prepare for any snap poll.

The move comes as Richard Leonard vowed to end the use of controversial PFI deals within the NHS in his first major speech as Scottish Labour leader.

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He said one of the party's key priorities would be to see private finance deals "booted out" of the health service in Scotland.

Mr Leonard said: "I think the exercise of the profit motive in the NHS is anathema, and I want to see it ended as quickly as possible."

The seats being targeted by activists this weekend are Glasgow South West, Inverclyde, Motherwell and Wishaw, Dunfermline and West Fife and Edinburgh North and Leith.

Glasgow South West has the smallest majority to overturn, with the SNP’s Chris Stephens just 60 votes ahead of Labour’s Matt Kerr in last year’s General Election.

Scottish Labour’s campaigns spokesman Neil Findlay MSP said Scotland represented a crucial battleground in the party’s bid to oust the Conservatives.

He said: “At the last General Election in June, Scottish Labour increased its tally of seats by six – but we are in touching distance of winning many more.

“With the Tories clinging on to power through a grubby deal with the DUP, the number of seats Labour wins in Scotland at the next general election will be crucial in building a majority to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.

“Our action days will take place throughout the year, putting pressure on the SNP and spreading Labour’s message of hope and real change for the many, not the few.

“Scottish seats can play a crucial role in ousting this callous Tory government – and Labour remains ready to win across the country.”

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Labour has struggled to regain its footing in Scotland since suffering an almost complete wipeout in the 2015 General Election, when the SNP secured 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

This weekend will be seen as a test of party activists, with hopes the popularity of UK leader Jeremy Corbyn among the grassroots will drive enthusiasm.

The party would need to overturn a 1,625 majority in Edinburgh North and Leith, where the SNP’s Deidre Brock defeated Labour’s Gordon Munro last year.

In Motherwell and Wishaw, the SNP have a majority of just 318, while in Inverclyde it stands at 384.

Meanwhile, 844 votes separate the SNP and Labour in Dunfermline and West Fife, where the SNP’s Douglas Chapman held onto his seat last year.

Activists will focus on the economy when they speak to voters today, including issues such as insecure work, low growth and low wages.

Leaflets given out at the door will take aim at the SNP’s “cuts” to education, while insisting Labour will invest £20 billion in the economy, infrastructure, jobs and housing over the next ten years – as well as introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour.

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Yesterday, Mr Leonard promised to roll back the privatisation of public services if he gained power at Holyrood.

In a speech in Dundee, he said it was time to "draw a line under" the practice "and look at common sense ways of bringing these private contracts into public ownership".

He promised an urgent review of who is running public services and how public projects and infrastructure are funded in the wake of the collapse of outsourcing giant Carillion.

It was also revealed the party will lodge proposals for legislation to end hospital car parking charges at the Scottish Parliament.

Jenny Marra, MSP for North East Scotland, said it was preparing a private members' bill to lift car parking charges at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital, which she claimed had made £5 million in profit over the last 20 years.

Mr Leonard said that while parking charges were an important issue, "we need to address what lies behind that and that is the whole public private project".

He added: "I say this in all candour, some of the big PFI hospital projects were built when Labour was last in power in Scotland.

"And I think we need to start by looking first of all at those PFI projects which frankly are coming towards the end of their 25 year or in some cases 30 year lifespan and look at how we can end those with more immediate effect.”

Mr Leonard dismissed the SNP's drive to seek permanent membership of the single market after Brexit, insisting this would "lead us to a position of being rule takers and not rule makers".

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He also said Scottish Labour would "legislate to prohibit any future Scottish Government from privatising Scottish Water", as well as coming up with a plan to turn it into a "multi-utility" which could also produce energy.

He vowed to lead a "once in a generation conversation around taxation", including consideration of a wealth tax.

Scottish Labour have launched a Tax and Investment Commission, chaired by Professor Christine Cooper, to look at securing the fair division of wealth.