SCOTTISH Labour’s lead candidate for the European elections has directly criticised Jeremy Corbyn by saying his policy on Brexit is confused and costing the party votes.

David Martin said Corbyn, who is sceptical about a second Brexit referendum, is trying to “ride two horses at once” and complained that his message “isn’t cutting through”.

Asked if his UK leader would be an asset on the doorsteps, the party veteran replied: “It would be mixed, let’s be honest.”

The Herald on Sunday can also reveal that senior Scottish Labour figures have questioned their party’s campaign strategy of attacking Brexit Party figurehead Nigel Farage.

Labour and the Tories are expected to be routed at the European elections this week after MPs failed to come to a resolution on leaving the EU.

Tory voters are angry that their party has failed to deliver Brexit, while pro-Remain Labour supporters are furious that Corbyn is not unequivocally backing a second referendum.

Corbyn wants to secure a Brexit deal in line with Labour values, or secure a general election. If neither proposition materialises, Labour will back the “option” of a public vote.

However, Corbyn’s nuanced position is frustrating Scottish Labour activists, as over 60% of voters north of the border backed Remain in the EU referendum.

Many activists want Scottish Labour to become a voice for staying in the EU and fear that the current position could result in their party losing one or both of their Brussels seats.

Martin, who as an MEP since 1984 is Scottish Labour’s longest-serving parliamentarian, is top of his party’s list of candidates. He is also a staunch Remainer who believes there should be a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, he said of his party’s campaign: “We are realistic about our prospects. We are not in any way expecting to expand on the two seats we already have. Frankly, our objective is to hold the two seats we’ve got.”

He said of Labour’s layered position on Brexit: “Bluntly there is still a bit of confusion about where we stand.”

Asked whether he believed the message was clunky, he said: “It is. I wouldn’t pretend it is easy to get it across. Sometimes when you are campaigning, it is two minutes on the doorstep and you move on. On this issue, that’s not possible so, bluntly, you do have to spend a bit of time explaining it to people. It’s a complicated message.”

By contrast, he said the pro-Remain parties, such as the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens, have a “very simple” message:

“I think there is a need for clarity in our message. A more straightforward message would certainly get a better resonance on the doorstep.”

Asked whether a pro-Remain policy would be more likely to result in Scottish Labour holding its two seats, he said:

“I think it would be, far, far more likely. Our European message isn’t cutting through as well as we’d like it to. So, yes, if we had a clearer message we would get more votes.”

On Corbyn, Martin said there was a contrast “between the European candidates and the message that is still coming out of the Leader’s office”.

He added that voters point out the contradiction between his pro-Remain view as a candidate and Corbyn’s pro-Brexit stance:

“In the context of the Brexit debate, he [Corbyn] does come up as ‘well, you say that to me, but that’s not what your leader is saying’. And you get another whole discussion about what the Leader is trying to say.”

Martin said Corbyn is popular with some younger voters, but warned: “He has come across as appearing to ride two horses at once.”

On whether the Brexit policy will cost Scottish Labour votes, he said: “Yes. My worry is we are going to underperform in relation to our national standing.”

However, he said that an intervention tomorrow by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who backs a second referendum, will make a “big difference”.

Asked what his message to Corbyn is, days before voters go to the polls, Martin said: “Be clear that Labour’s wants a second referendum.”

This newspaper also understands that a stormy meeting of Labour MSPs last week led to fierce criticism of the party’s strategy.

MSPs are unhappy that Corbyn’s face, not Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, is on the party’s election leaflet. They also believe it has been a mistake for Scottish Labour to focus on Farage, as he is not judged to be a front-line politician north of the border.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Scottish Labour MEPs will play a pivotal role in tackling tax avoidance, climate change and leading the cause of progressive politics in Europe.”