SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard has insisted those who knowingly decided to transfer patients with Covid-19 into care homes "must face justice if necessary in a court of law". 

Mr Leonard said: "We know that families are already considering bringing about prosecutions, and we will be on the side of those families in their pursuit of justice."

He made the comments as he outlined a series of plans he believes could transform the economy and create more than 130,000 jobs - and called on Boris Johnson to help fund it.

Mr Leonard set out his vision of a "fairer Scotland, a greener Scotland, a better Scotland", with a new National Care Service, thousands of new councils houses and investment in green transport.

In a speech, he said he was "issuing a warning to Scotland’s political establishment", adding: "Your old ways were never the answer. But the need to break with them is more urgent now than ever."

However, facing questions from journalists afterwards, Mr Leonard admitted he did not "underestimate the scale of the challenge that the Scottish Labour Party faces" in terms of its "squeezed" support and poor poll ratings.

During his speech, Mr Leonard referenced his uncle Ralph Riley, who died in a care home in England in April at the age of 92.

He said he had called for a public inquiry into care home deaths, adding: "But we need to go further, so that those who knowingly decided to transfer patients with Covid-19 to care homes, and those who knowingly took the decision to transfer patients to care homes in the full and certain knowledge that there was Covid-19 present, must face justice if necessary in a court of law."

It comes after The Sunday Post revealed at least 37 people were moved from hospital to a care home after a positive test for the virus between March 1 and April 21.

Almost half of Covid-19 deaths in Scotland have been in care homes.

Mr Leonard later told journalists the blame "may rest at the level of the care home" in some cases, or it "may rest at a higher level".

He added: "Our continued concern has been the guidance that was issued in the name of the Scottish Government, which dictated the policies and practices followed out in the field, so there will, I think, be questions in the end that will need to be answered by the Government."

He said: "Internationally, there are examples of class actions being entered, which have led to, variously, a number of respondents named, whether that be providers, whether that be state governments, whether that would be federal governments. 

"I would imagine that we are looking at potentially the same kind of course being pursued by people in Scotland."

Elsewhere, Mr Leonard called for a National Care Service and insisted the Scottish Jobs Guarantee Scheme, recently announced by the SNP, should be open "not just to young people, but to other people of working age disadvantaged by the economic lockdown".

He said: "We know that the pandemic has had an adverse and disproportionate impact on women."

He also called on the Scottish Government to introduce a ban on evictions until the Holyrood election in May next year.

Mr Leonard said his "bold plans" could create up to 131,000 jobs across Scotland.

By helping to fund them, he said the Tory Government at Westminster could help see off the threat of rising support for independence.

With a series of polls showing a majority of Scots now in favour of leaving the UK, Mr Leonard blamed the Prime Minister in part for the increased backing.

He said: "Juxtaposing Nicola Sturgeon with Boris Johnson, people clearly hold Nicola Sturgeon in much higher regard."

But he said if the Prime Minister was "serious about defeating any rise in nationalism, he must understand the importance of investing in the Scottish economy and the kind of proposals we have outlined today".

Mr Leonard said Labour would build 12,000 council homes each year.

He argued Holyrood needs more borrowing powers to boost investment, and called on Westminster to reallocate around £800 million per year from the current EU contribution to its budget.