KEZIA Dugdale’s defence of a £25,000 defamation claim is being paid for by the Labour Party in London, it is understood.

The former Scottish Labour leader is being sued by nationalist blogger Stuart Campbell after she accused him of making homophobic remarks, which he strongly denies.

She will face a courtroom cross-examination next year after a sheriff gave the green light for a full hearing.

The row started after Mr Campbell, who runs the controversial Wings Over Scotland website, tweeted about Tory MSP Oliver Mundell. His father, the Tory Scottish Secretary David Mundell, came out as gay in 2016.

Mr Campbell wrote last year: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner."

In a newspaper column, Ms Dugdale said she was “shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger's homophobic tweets”.

Mr Campbell’s legal team argue her article was defamatory and implied he is homophobic.

It is understood the UK Labour Party, which raised a record income of £56 million last year, will pay all Ms Dugdale’s legal costs in the upcoming court battle.

It has instructed London-based lawyers Steel & Shamash, who have in turn enlisted Scottish firm Balfour+Manson.

Mr Campbell said Ms Dugdale’s defence costs were being paid by a "shady", unidentified backer in an article he published over the weekend.

He wrote: “NOT by an open public crowdfunder, where thousands of ordinary people kick in a modest few quid of their own free will, not even out of the money she grabbed by leveraging her modest fame and power to abandon her constituents and go on a celebrity TV show, but by a shady backer who hasn’t been officially identified, isn’t answerable to anyone, and isn’t available to ordinary members of the public.”

He was condemning opposition attacks on Alex Salmond, who launched a crowdfunding appeal to bankroll his legal battle with the Scottish Government over its handling of sexual harassment allegations.

Responding to Labour paying Ms Dugdale's court fees, Mr Campbell said: "After a full week of Scottish Labour bleating loudly about how Alex Salmond should have paid his own legal costs, the hypocrisy of this would be – well, it'd be about what I'd expect, to be honest."

Ms Dugdale was criticised earlier this year after it emerged she received more than her annual salary as an MSP for less than two weeks on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

She faces being quizzed by Mr Campbell's lawyers in court after Sheriff Kenneth McGowan rejected attempts by her legal team to have the action dismissed.

Ms Dugdale’s lawyer, Aidan O’Neill QC, previously accused Mr Campbell of “lowering political debate to the level of five-year-old playground abuse”.

He argued Ms Dugdale’s condemnation of the tweet as “homophobic” was fair and honest comment.

A spokesman for Ms Dugdale said: “Ms Dugdale has been made aware of Sheriff McGowan’s judgment on the case and will now take time to discuss the position, and take advice from her legal team.”

A Labour spokesman declined to comment.