RICHARD Leonard has replaced his gaffe-prone finance spokesman ahead of the Scottish budget.

The Scottish Labour leader dropped James Kelly from the role as part of a reshuffle of his shadow cabinet at Holyrood.

The move came ahead of MSPs returning to Holyrood on Tuesday, signalling the build up to the draft Scottish budget in the autumn and the parliamentary budget vote in the New Year.

Mr Kelly, a Glasgow list MSP, becomes justice spokesman, while rural economy spokesperson Rhoda Grant takes over the finance portfolio.

The previous justice spokesperson, Daniel Johnson, quit the post in May in frustration after his party’s mixed message on Brexit saw it fall to sixth place in Scotland.

Mr Leonard appointed Mr Kelly as his shadow finance secretary immediately after becoming Scottish Labour leader in December 2017.

However he has been regularly mocked in parliament for appearing not to grasp his brief.

In 2018, he was unable to say how Labour would raise the extra £700m of spending it was demanding from the SNP, called the annual underspend a “slush fund”, and this year appeared to forget there was a £12,500 personal income tax allowance.

Former Labour minister Sarah Boyack, returning to Holyrood after a three year absence after Kezia Dugdale quit as an MSP, becomes local government spokesperson.

Former deputy Presiding Officer Elaine Smith is promoted to group business manager, replacing Neil Findlay, who stood down in May complaining of “toxic” infighting.

Mr Findlay’s other work on “campaigns and party engagement” is taken over by non-MSP Joe Cullinane, leader of North Ayrshire Council, and son of former Scottish Labour chair Jackson Cullinane.

Former local government spokesman Alex Rowley moves to Brexit and the Constitution.

Mr Leonard last reshuffled his cabinet less than a year ago, in October 2018.

He said: “We begin this new parliamentary term, at one of the most important times in our political history.

“I am confident that our new shadow cabinet team have the expertise, experience and enthusiasm to both hold the SNP government to account and to put forward the distinctive Scottish Labour alternative.

“The new team will renew the energy across our party ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections.

“We know that we need to make a strong case based on Labour values with voters and work closely with our dedicated members across the country. That is why the Leader of North Ayrshire Council, Joe Cullinane, has been appointed to lead on campaigns and party engagement. He is a seasoned campaigner working hard in his local community and the experience he brings will be a great asset to our team.

“I am also delighted to welcome Sarah Boyack back to the Scottish Parliament and to our shadow cabinet in the local government role. Sarah will be a strong addition to our team.”

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Less than a year after the last reshuffle, the deckchairs are being rearranged again.

"If only Scottish Labour were putting as much effort into protecting Scotland’s place in the UK and the EU as they are into factional warfare."