RICHARD Leonard has been accused of “censoring” anti-Brexit comments at this weekend’s Scottish Labour conference in a blazing row with his predecessor.

Kezia Dugdale has formally complained that Mr Leonard ordered the removal of a statement about Brexit from the conference guide without the author’s permission.

She said she was “shocked” that a passage by former Scottish Labour MEP Catherine Stihler expressing support for a People’s Vote was replaced.

Mr Leonard last week said he would rather see a Labour Brexit than a People’s Vote, despite 62 per cent of Scots backing Remain in the EU referendum.

In a leaked email to her successor, Ms Dugdale said: “I find it wholly inappropriate and I can’t possibly understand why you would seek to censor her final words to party members, especially as she states she is party policy and has been since last September.”

The SNP said the Labour leadership wanted to "gag" its own parliamentarians.

A Labour source blamed a "genuine misunderstanding" for the situation and Mr Leonard had written to apologise to Ms Stihler.

The extraordinary split comes at an acutely sensitive time for Mr Leonard.

He is already under pressure after being attacked as a poor leader by the head of his own union, and will address Labour activists in Dundee this weekend.

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The comments will inevitably fuel speculation that Ms Dugdale is considering joining the TIG group of independent MPs, something she has previously ruled out.

One senior Labour source said: "This is part of Kez's exit strategy from the party."

Ms Dugdale, who stood down as Scottish Labour leader after two years in 2017, circulated her email to all Labour MSPs and MPs to make her anger widely known to colleagues.

Her complaint concerns the “Labour in Europe” section of the conference guide featuring Ms Stihler and the current Scottish Labour MEP David Martin.

Ms Dugdale says this was amended without Ms Stihler’s consent.

The original passage read: “Brexit is a tragedy for our country and for the workers and communities the Labour Party represents. That’s why David and Catherine fully support a people’s vote with the option to remain in the EU.”

However this was changed to: “The complete mess the Tories have made of Brexit means they are putting Scottish people’s jobs and our industries at risk. Labour will always put them first.”

Ms Dugdale wrote: “When that was challenged, she [Ms Stihler] was told it was on your direction and that you had the final say on what was printed.”

She urged Mr Leonard to “take urgent steps to rectify what I consider to be a considerable insult”, and to ensure both MEPs are thanked properly at conference.

Ms Dugdale also expressed discontent with Labour’s general position on backing Brexit.

She wrote: “You know that I’ve found the party’s position on Brexit and a second EU referendum disappointing for sometime.

“As I said at [the Labour MSP] group last week and repeatedly over the past few months, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good Brexit or indeed a ‘jobs first Brexit’.

“I remain utterly convinced, rooted in all the evidence I have seen, that it will be immensely damaging for the Scottish and UK economy. A price which will once again be paid by those in low-paid and insecure work, the very people we seek to represent.

“The move towards supporting a People’s vote is a welcome one, but it should have happened much much earlier. I note from your roundtable with journalists last week that you’d sooner we left the EU than give people a final say.

“That’s disappointing for the many party members who fervently back a final say and indeed all of our voters who are now a bit lost for a home.”

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She went on: “It’s therefore in that context I wish to formally complain about the way in which Catherine Stihler and David Martin have been treated ahead of conference.

“From what I can see from the agenda, there is no formal opportunity for them to speak or indeed a formal item to thank them for their combined 55 years of electoral service to the party on the agenda.”

She then detailed the changes to the text in the conference guide.

SNP MSP George Adam said: “This is an eye-opening revelation from Scottish Labour.

“In a considerable insult to Scottish workers, Richard Leonard is trying to airbrush out the reality of a damaging Tory Brexit with only 23 days remaining until we leave the EU.

“Labour will never be forgiven if they lend their fulsome support to the Tories’ Brexit plans – casting tens of thousands of Scottish jobs on the scrapheap and hammering our NHS.

“We know that Labour’s leadership would rather see Scotland dragged out of the EU against our will than give people a choice over the Tories’ bad deal. And now it seems they’re willing to gag their own elected members in the process.

“That’s why Labour continue to struggle in a dismal third place in Scottish politics while more and more people are drawn towards the SNP – a party who will fight hard to protect Scottish jobs as the damage of a Tory Brexit hits home.”

A Scottish Labour source said: “This was a genuine misunderstanding and Richard has written to Catherine and David to apologise.”