RICHARD Leonard has admitted his party has been unable to cope with a flood of complaints about racism and anti-Semitism.

The Scottish Labour leader said there had been “a bit of a resource issue because of the size of the number of complaints that have come in”.

He said he was personally frustrated at the slow pace of investigations.

On the opening day of the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee, Mr Leonard apologised for the party taking more than a year to hold a hearing into a councillor who has already admitted making an Islamophobic remark about an SNP minister.

The conference had been asked to debate a motion on anti-Semitism by the party’s branch in Eastwood, home to Scotland’s largest Jewish community, but party chiefs rejected it.

Those pushing for the motion met bosses this morning and accepted that the issue would be aired as part of a wider debate about equality and diversity on Saturday.

Mr Leonard told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “There will be a debate at conference on anti-Semitism. The Labour Party is not a supine party. The activists here, the trade unions here, will not accept any attempt to block a debate, so there will be a debate at this conference... as part of a broader debate about equality and diversity.”

He said: “We want to root out anti-Semitism from every corner of the Labour Party and every corner of society. It’s something that we are not prepared to tolerate. I understand why people are frustrated that we’re not getting on with it as quickly as they would like.”

Asked why that was the case, he said: “Well, there’s been a bit of a resource issue because of the size of the number of complaints that have come in.

“So we’re trying to deal with those as a party. We’re trying to deal with them in a way that’s judicious and fair to all parties concerned.

“We’re keen to make sure that how we deal with any complaints is fair.

“But also I am frustrated, and I know that other people are frustrated, about the length of time which is taken, but we are seeking to address that.”

The party had received almost 700 complaints in the last 10 months.

READ MORE: Labour reveals 673 allegations of anti-Semitism in party during last 10 months

He said disciplinary issues were dealt with at a UK level.   

He asked why the party had yet to hold a hearing into Dumfries councillor Jim Dempster who admitted making Islamophobic comments about Humza Yousaf a year ago.

Mr Dempster suggested the SNP Justice Secretary went about the country in a “burka”.

Mr Leonard said: “I completely understand why that is just simply not satisfactory. But the case rests with our National Constitutional Committee which is set up to consider these kind of cases, and they will be convening a hearing where they will take evidence and then they will make a decision.

“I’ll take this opportunity to apologise that this has taken as long as it has taken. It’s unsatisfactory to me and to all those people involved.”

READ MORE: Labour attacked over 'shameful' delays in resolving racism allegation cases

Asked about a new Panelbase poll showing Scottish Labour going backwards, he said: “The Holyrood elections are not for another two years. We’ve got time to turn that around.”

“I think you see there would be a surge in support for Labour. My task as the leader of the Scottish Labour leader is to get us into a place so that by 2021 we are challenging for power, and that’s where the Labour party that I lead, that’s where I want us to be.”

Mr Leonard also denied trying to censor anti-Brexit comments written for the conference guide by former Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler.

Kezia Dugdale, Mr Leonard’s predecessor as leader, accused him of replacing the text because it backed a People’s Vote.

Mr Leonard blamed a mix-up and said “that shouldn’t have happened”.