SCOTTISH Labour’s constant infighting will cost them the Holyrood elections and any chance to hold the SNP Government to account, according to a former MP.

Paul Sweeney hit out at the “relentlessly malicious briefings and leaks” being targeted at leader Richard Leonard, and said his party must “refocus” and come together for the sake of the Scottish electorate.

He also said that unless politicians as a whole can get find a way past the question of Scottish independence, there is little opportunity to improve domestic policy and challenge the government effectively on its performance around issues such as health and education.

Sweeney, who lost his seat as Glasgow North MP to the SNP's Anne McLaughlin last year, told the Herald on Sunday: “I find it extraordinary that there isn’t an effective opposition in Holyrood, which could have wiped the floor with the SNP by now.

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“We need to get back on to the domestic agenda. There are a litany of issues, around health, education, justice. The ‘SNP bad’ response is not cutting any ice the way it used to. People are now seeing that things are not good.

“In Glasgow, the change to the integrated grant funds means there are loads of organisations which are about to just get starved of funding, the homelessness crisis also…The state has an obligation to provide housing, but there must be more robust sanctions. Why are there no criminal sanctions for letting people die on the street? What about corporate manslaughter? That crisis is not being addressed.

“The hospital mismanagement, the capital investment into the kids' hospital…Jeane Freeman should have resigned by now, in any normal democracy that would have happened

“Derek McKay should be under more scrutiny over Ferguson Marine, the CalMac contracts. Humza Yousaf should be under more scrutiny after the deaths in custody scandals we have seen. But Humza has barely had any blow back on this.”

Sweeney's comments come after a newspaper reported last week that Leonard had suggested holding a special conference to discuss the party’s view on Indyref2, which was roundly rejected by the executive at a meeting last Saturday.

The details of the proposals were said to be “over-exaggerated’ by party sources, while others said the leaks were “by a group of people attempting to unseat Richard [Leonard], and have been for a long time.”

Sweeney said Scottish Labour's problems are “not structural” and added that a change in the Scottish leadership would not be the solution to the decline in support for the party in the past five years.

He explained: “My reading of it is not a structural issue. It's not that difficult, with a change in [UK Labour] leadership and if we ran a campaign that captured energy.

“I don’t think it’s a situation where are locked out of winning seats in Scotland. A lot of Scottish Labour’s fate will be dependent on what happens with its opposition.

“Nobody in Scotland has actually thought about what a post-Sturgeon SNP is going to look like. “That’s a big factor in Scottish politics, and its whether Labour is in the position to enter in to the vacuum that will open up when that happens, possibly within the next year.

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“We have allowed ourselves to get locked in to the narrative of 2014, Yes vs No, and I think we need to reject that narrative completely.”

The former MP, who is in support of further devolution in Scotland, said the party must produce a 'white paper' on the constitution to set out clearly where it stands, ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

The politician, who is considering running for a seat at Holyrood, said: “We haven’t innovated on this, we haven’t focused on the details and we need to. Right now, the discussion is purely focussed on ‘Yes, we want independence’ or ‘We have had enough of the Tories’.

It's an aggressive and quite binary discussion in Scotland, and how to crack that open...That’s the biggest challenge for Labour.

“We need to construct a highly detailed document, like a white paper, on what it means by federalism and what this architecture is that we are proposing. We need to really develop that plan. There is a lot of work being done behind the scenes on this, but it hasn’t been published yet and I’m hopeful that it is published and we can spend time talking to the public about what that means and why it is a better model than the growth commission.

“You can't say it’s not about ‘yes/no', its about what delivers change in a positive way. It allows that opportunity for self-determination, but In a way that delivers progress for working people, for middle class people.

“That’s what we have to focus on in Scotland rather than be stuck on a feedback loop of 'We can't do anything until independence is resolved'.”

Several of Sweeney's colleagues, including Neil Findlay MSP, are also in support of further devolution in Scotland, with federalism set to be the topic of a special 'away day' for the party's executive committee later this year.