ONE of Scottish Labour’s most experienced politicians has urged Richard Leonard to quit as leader to help the party's electoral prospects.

Lord George Foulkes, who was an MP and MSP as well as a peer, said the party needed “credible leadership” and Mr Leonard wasn’t it.

Lord Foulkes, chair of the Scottish Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said Mr Leonard’s deputy Jackie Baillie could act as interim leader for the 2021 election.

Scottish Labour has suffered two severe electoral reversals under Mr Leonard, a left-winger close to former UK leader Jeremy Corbyn who has been in charge since November 2017.

Labour lost both its Scottish MEPs in the European election of 2019, then six of its seven MPs in the general election last December.  

Lord Foulkes told the Daily Record that Labour could exploit the SNP’s record on public services, but warned: “It needs a credible leadership and campaign to take advantage.”

Asked if Mr Leonard was the best person to lead Labour into next year’s  election, the peer said: “He has to make that decision. He has to put the interests of the Labour party in Scotland ahead of his own personal interests.

“He needs to make a judgement about whether he thinks he can take advantage of this opportunity. Time is running out.”

On whether standing down would be putting the party first, Lord Foulkes said: “Yes.”

“He doesn’t seem to like it [the job] and he doesn’t seem to break through”.

On Sunday, former Labour Prime Minister added to Mr Leonard’s woes by saying only former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had effectively opposed the SNP at Holyrood.

He said: “You do need a viable opposition in Scotland, and they’ve not really had one.

“The Labour party went off to the Left and then played around with Nationalist sentiment instead of being clearly in the centre Left position, and strongly in favour of the Union, it lost its purchase as the opposition.

“Other than that period of time when Ruth Davidson was leading the Tories, there was no one who was really able to provide a coherent alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.”

Lord Foulkes added: “The truth is Jackie is there, if necessary, to take over as acting leader, and she would do the job.

“He [Leonard] needs to think of what is best for the party in terms of the Holyrood elections. 

"Tony Blair has sent a coded message to him and he needs to think carefully about it.”

The ninth leader of Scottish Labour since 1999, Mr Leonard remains relatively unknown to voters after almost three years. 

A recent opinion poll showed Labour on 15 per cent of the vote for Holyrood, a significant fall from the 2016 election, which itself was a new low for the party.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Scotland is being failed by two governments.

“Scottish Labour is the only party prioritising the push for jobs and a national care service as we build back from the pandemic.

“Next year’s election is a chance to get people’s priorities back into Parliament and that’s what we are focused on.”