RICHARD Leonard has said that a Labour government at Holyrood would have a much deeper relationship with trade unions than the SNP.

The Scottish Labour leader spoke to the Sunday Herald immediately after his speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Aviemore last week.

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond signed a 'memorandum of understanding' with the STUC shortly after becoming first minister in 2007 to ensure the unions would be consulted about policy on issues related to employment rights.

However, Leonard vowed that the unions would get a direct say over job creation and economic planning if he became first minister.

Leonard said: "I'm talking about something that is a bit deeper than a piece of paper that contains a signature of the general secretary of the STUC and the signature of the first minister.

"I'm talking about something which much more actively involves trade unions in the formal planning of the Scottish economy.

"I don’t want to simply see the odd trade unionist getting the odd seat on the odd public board, I want to see a much more democratic economy where trade union representatives have got a much more central voice in the forward planning of the economy.

"We want to see a serious and deep relationship with trade unions and employers as well.

"But trade unions have been shut out of the economic development decision-making process."

Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars said that he was “anxious” his party would lose seats in working class areas to Leonard.

Sillars, who was attended last week's STUC congress, said that Leonard "did not look like a potential failure”, although he insisted he would remain a member of the SNP because he saw it as the best "vehicle for independence".

"Leonard and I diverge quite significantly on that," said Sillars, who served as the Labour MP for South Ayrshire and later the SNP MP for Glasgow Govan.

However, Sillars added: "As an SNP member sitting and listening to Richard Leonard's speech at the STUC, I began to become anxious about our position in the next set of Scottish Parliament elections, especially in working class areas in the Central Belt.

"If we were living in an independent Scotland and Richard Leonard was saying that type of stuff, he would be unbeatable."