A VETERAN Labour MSP who was sacked by Scottish leader Richard Leonard just over a year ago is running to be his deputy.

Jackie Baillie announced the move after failing in a bid to share the job with Pauline McNeill, another MSP.

Ms Baillie said the plans were “vetoed” by party bosses, who cited “procedural issues as a reason for not allowing the deputy leader to be a job share position”.

In her pitch for the deputy role, the Dumbarton MSP took aim at the current leadership, and hit out at the “inconsistent message” from senior figures on independence and Brexit.

The Labour moderate also called for the party to take responsibility for its crushing general election result and “take drastic steps to change”.

She said: “I can’t sit on the sidelines any longer and watch my party decline. That’s why today I am announcing my candidacy as deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

“I am disappointed that my plans to unite with my friend and colleague, Pauline McNeill, have been rejected, but I look forward to working with her to rebuild our beloved party regardless of whether we share a candidacy or not.

“The future of our party is hanging in the balance. We experienced two crushing defeats in 2019 and the Scottish electorate did not feel able to put their trust in Scottish Labour. As a result, the party lost all but one MP. The result has meant that communities across Scotland have been subjected to another five years of Tory austerity, on top of the more than a decade of SNP cuts that they have already had to endure.

“Voters lost trust in our leadership and were confused by our manifesto. The inconsistent message that came from senior figures within the Labour Party on the two biggest issues facing Scottish voters – Scottish independence and Brexit – meant that the electorate did not know what the party stood for and instead went elsewhere.

“If Scottish Labour does not accept responsibility for the result and take drastic steps to change, then the party will become a residual force in Scottish politics. My aim is to unite the party and bring members together from across the political spectrum, in order to rebuild the party for the future.

“My membership cards say ‘By the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone.’ This resonates with me now more than ever.”

Ms Baillie was sacked from Labour’s frontbench team in Holyrood in 2018 in a chaotic reshuffle aimed at stamping out “internal battles”.

Anas Sarwar MSP, who was also axed, said he found out about the move on Twitter.

Ms Baillie is the only Scottish Labour MSP to have won her constituency continuously since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

She had wanted to run for deputy on a joint ticket with Ms McNeill, an MSP for the Glasgow region.

The pair believed their individual expertise and experience would allow them to unite the divided party and help regain trust.

However, Labour said this was not allowed under its procedures.

A source also suggested such a move could potentially open the party up to legal action from another candidate.

A party spokesman said: “Scottish Labour’s procedures clearly state that individual Scottish Labour councillors, MSPs and MPs will each be able to nominate themselves or one Scottish Labour councillor, MSP or MP for the position of deputy leader.”

Ms McNeill is now also considering running on her own.