JOHN McDonnell has been branded “clueless” after insisting Scottish Labour is no longer a branch office at the same time the party is advertising key Scottish policy jobs in London.

The Shadow Chancellor, who visits north of the border this week, insisted on Saturday that Scottish Labour was not a “sub-office of London” and would make its own decisions.

However the Herald can reveal UK Labour is currently recruiting a “Constitutional Policy Officer (Scotland)” and a “Policy Development Officer (Scotland)”, both based in Westminster.

Both positions involve developing policy “for the Labour party in Scotland”, while the constitutional officer’s job also involves researching the impact of Government policies for Scotland.

Applications for the 12-month contracts, which come with a salary of £35,995 “inclusive of London weighting”, close next week.

The SNP said Mr McDonnell, who is usually considered to be the brains in Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle, didn’t appear to have a clue about what his own party was doing.

A Scottish Labour insider said the new roles would “complement” existing staff at Holyrood.

However another party source claimed MSPs were “appalled” that scarce funds were being used so that Mr Corbyn’s team could email policy north to Holyrood.

The “branch office” tag was famously applied by former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont when she resigned after a rift with party HQ in London in 2014.

The SNP seized on the line, and have used it ever since to attack Scottish Labour, especially new leader Richard Leonard, who is seen as unfailingly loyal to Mr Corbyn.

But ahead of his to Scotland, Mr McDonnell insisted the pejorative description was false.

Praising Mr Leonard, he told a London-based newspaper: “This argument in the past that the Scottish party has been a sub-office of London; the allegation was wrong.

“Now, you’ve got a Scottish party that’s operating effectively with a new leadership that’s dynamic. They will make the decisions about the future.”

SNP MP Drew Hendry said the new policy jobs made a mockery of claims about Scottish Labour autonomy.

He said: “Whilst Scottish Labour finds itself in electoral disarray at home, it’s hardly surprising that the the Labour party are advertising for candidates to develop policy for Scotland from London.

“It appears that John McDonnell is clueless to the fact that Scottish Labour remains a branch office of their party offices in London.”

It also emerged yesterday that an MP, rather than an MSP, would chair the internal party body developing Scottish Labour’s manifesto for the next Holyrood election.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird, who is also Scottish Labour deputy, narrowly beat moderate MSP Jackie Baillie for the post of Scottish Policy Forum Chair.

Scottish Labour’s acting communications director, Rich Simcox, is also on a three-month secondment from Mr Corbyn’s office after his predecessor quit after just half-a-year.

A Labour source said: “MSPs are appalled that party money is going to be spent on creating two new policy posts in Corbyn’s inner sanctum to tell the branch office what to think.

“There are gaping holes in the party machine up here, such as the need for a full-time organiser in the north east and the Highlands, but money is being squandered in London.”

But another said: “Scottish Labour already employs a significant and effective policy team in Holyrood. These new roles will complement that, and reflect the importance of Labour forming governments north and south of the border so we can bring about the real change that is desperately needed after a decade of austerity under the Tories and SNP.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Labour said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”