RICHARD Leonard’s attempt to assert his authority over Scottish Labour has descended into farce, after one of his MSPs learned of his sacking from Twitter.

Anas Sarwar said he had been in the Holyrood chamber, leading for Labour in a health debate, when he read he had been dumped as health spokesman in a reshuffle.

Only afterwards did Mr Leonard tell him he’d been sacked for "political reasons”.

It is understood the health brief was given to Leonard loyalist Monica Lennon before Mr Sarwar was formally axed.

The Glasgow MSP stood against Mr Leonard for the Scottish Labour leadership last year, and was seen in the eyes of Mr Leonard’s camp as part of a briefing operation against the leader.

In a statement, Mr Sarwar said: “I’m deeply disappointed to no longer be Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health. It’s a shame that I came to know about this decision through Twitter, while I was leading for Labour in a health debate in the Holyrood chamber.

“For the sake of all the people who need a Labour Government, I wish Richard Leonard and his Shadow Cabinet all the very best for the future.

“I will continue to serve my constituents tirelessly from the backbenches, campaigning for issues close to my heart including the battle against racism, prejudice and hatred.”

The Tories said the reshuffle was a “fiasco” and underscored Labour’s poor leadership.

Scots Labour MP Ian Murray tweeted: "The purge of good, capable and committed people goes on merely for standing up for what they believe in. I don’t know whether to be angry or sad. I thought Richard was better than this?"

Former Kirkcaldy MP and Labour defence minister Lord Lewis Moonie added on Twitter: “My party is soooooooo f***ed.”

As MSPs were called into Mr Leonard’s office to be given good or bad news, MSP Jackie Baillie exited the parliament before the leader had a chance to sack her face to face.

Mr Leonard later relieved of her role as economy spokesperson and took it for himself.

He said he wanted to refresh his frontbench and put “internal battles” behind him.

However there was little sign of peace breaking out in the divided Holyrood operation.

Referring to Mr Sarwar and Ms Baillie being axed, a source said it was further evidence of poor leadership: “You don’t take your two best players off the pitch when you’re in trouble.”

The limited reshuffle also saw left-winger Neil Findlay, who was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign manager in Scotland, assume the powerful role of Labour chief whip at Holyrood.

MSP Pauline McNeill joins the shadow cabinet as equalities spokesperson, and former party deputy Alex Rowley returns as local government spokesperson.

He quit the frontbench last year after a former partner accused him of “emotional blackmail and abuse”, but a party probe was dropped after she chose not to make a formal complaint.

The messy scenes capped a stormy week for Scottish Labour, which saw Mr Leonard under fire from many of his own MSPs over his handling of a legal case involving his predecessor.

Some MSPs feel he fas failed to stand up to Labour HQ in London after it cut off funding for Kezia Dugdale’s defence of a defamation action brought by a Nationalist blogger.

MSPs discussed the case at their weekly meeting on Tuesday, but failed to come to any decision, with Mr Leonard staying silent throughout. 

A meeting to continue the talks was scheduled for the following day but then cancelled, meaning it will hang over the Holyrood group until the far side of the October recess, which starts for two weeks on Friday. 

Mr Leonard’s top spindoctor also quit on Thursday after less than six months in the post.

Charlie Mann, who survived four years working for the controversial former Hearts FC owner Vladimir Romanov, said he realised working for Scottish Labour was “not for me”.

Mr Mann’s appointment as chief of communications in April was a key decision for Mr Leonard, and his departure will reflect badly on the Labour leader’s judgment.

Mr Leonard said: “I have decided to refresh Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet’s focus so that we are ready to meet the challenge of that new terrain of investment versus cuts, and to focus on unity and the public, not ourselves and internal battles.”

Ms Baillie said: “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and will continue to be a strong advocate for my constituents - and Labour values. I wish Richard Leonard well for the future.”

Mr Leonard also announced that Dave Watson, the respected former head of policy and public affairs at Unison Scotland, had joined his team as a policy development officer.

He said: “I was elected leader 11 months ago on a platform of real change not only for Scotland but also for Scottish Labour. By working together we will take Labour forward.

“It will give us the best possible chance to win again in Scotland, not for our own sake but for the sake of all people in all of those communities who need a Scottish Labour Government."

Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Labour is a party more divided than ever, and with this chaotic reshuffle have underlined again just how weak an opposition they are.

"They've removed their best performers from the frontbench on the same day their media chief confirms he can't take it anymore. This is a bewildering and ridiculous political fiasco.

"The only two MSPs capable of leading have now been sacked by their increasingly hapless leader. Richard Leonard couldn't lead a circus, even though that's what he increasingly seems to aspire to.”

Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon had taunted Mr Leonard at First Minister’s Questions, by reading out a quote from someone in his own party which was published this week.

She told MSPs it read: “‘Richard has no authority over the group. If he is serious about leading Scottish Labour, he should be apologising”. I could not sum it up any better.”

The new Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet is as follows:

Richard Leonard, Leader,also leading on the economy brief

Lesley Laird, Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Claire Baker, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Claudia Beamish, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Neil Findlay, Business Manager, Party Liaison, Constitutional Relations

Rhoda Grant, Shadow Cabinet secretary for Rural Economy

Iain Gray, Shadow Cabinet secretary for Education and Skills

Daniel Johnson, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice

James Kelly, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance

Monica Lennon, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Pauline McNeil, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Equalities, Housing and Social Security

Elaine Smith, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality

Colin Smyth, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport

Alex Rowley, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government