Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has vowed to fight on and lead his party through the Scottish 2021 elections despite pressure from within his party to step down. 

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Leonard was asked by host Sophy Ridge whether or not he would step down following mounting calls from within his party to do so. 

However, he rebuffed any such action stating that he would not step down and that those who are calling for him to quit have underestimated him saying: “I think those people that have been calling this week for me to step down have underestimated both my resolve but also the mandate that I got from the members of the Scottish Labour Party.

“Prior to my election as the leader just under three years ago we’d had 5 leaders of the Scottish Labour Party in 6 years, so the mandate that I was given by the members when the convincingly elected me to be the leader was to campaign on a radical agenda but it was also to be the leader of the Scottish Labour Party going into the May 2021 Scottish parliament elections.”

READ MORE: Scottish Labour grandees call on Richard Leonard to resign as leader

When asked if Labour was irrelevant in Scotland - and whether he could see why some people were worried about the future of the party based on their polling, he said: “This has been part of a long term trend, but look, the situation we now face because of the pandemic has really changed the dial of politics

“The people I am speaking to are having sleepless nights because they don’t know when the job retention scheme comes to an end at the end of October, whether they’ll have a job or not. We are expecting a huge spike in unemployment. 

“We know there will be massive pressures of the NHS. We know there has been a crisis in social care, all of these things are moving people’s attention from these constitutional questions. Brexit dominated last December’s election not only in the rest of the UK but in Scotland as well. I think there is a new climate of politics in Scotland which will allow us to start to get our messages across about the need for urgent action to tackle the job crisis, urgent action to make sure we have investment in public services. 

“The sole focus of the next Scottish parliament has got to be on tackling these big questions."

The Scottish Labour leader was also questioned on why many within his own party were calling for you to go.

Leonard responded saying: “There are some people who never accepted the result when I was elected. There are some people who misread the mood of the party membership. I was given a strong mandate when I was elected and I have had a huge number of messages of support from right across the Labour party. 

“Right across the board, I think there has been a massive strong message of support for me and for my leadership. At the very point, the country is in a crisis, eight months out from an election, the last thing people want to see is the Labour Party turning itself in on itself.  

“When I inherited the party it was in 3rd place. It still is in 3rd. I will be campaigning for every single seat as we go into the elections next year. “

The Scottish Labour leader was also asked to clarify his views on Scottish independence and whether he was completely opposed to the idea of independence, even if the SNP won a majority in the election next year, which many would see as a mandate for a referendum. 

READ MORE: Richard Leonard rules out leadership contest as he claims rebels 'never accepted' his mandate

“I do not believe it serves the best interests of the people of Scotland to set up a separate Scottish state. I think the values of cooperation, solidarity, working together are ones that drive my politics. 

“We’ve said that going into the elections next year because of the scale of the crisis the priority for the next Scottish Parliament and next Scottish Government should not be around constitutional questions, it needs to be about solving those social and economic questions. That's why I have said we will go into those elections next year opposed to a second Scottish independence referendum. 

“Of course we want reform and modernisation of the British state, it is too centralised, and with Brexit, there are challenges there about how we can get more co-determination between a Scottish Government, a Welsh Government, a Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government. There needs to be greater parity and greater decentralisation.” 

Host Sophy Ridge then asked: “Even if the SNP win a majority will you be opposed to a second referendum on independence in all circumstances.” 

Leonard responded saying: “I am not going to concede the result to the SNP.  On their record, whether its on education, the delivery of public services, on jobs, on green jobs, whether it's their record on the handling of the pandemic and the scandal of what's happened in Scotland’s residential care homes, these are big questions which the SNP will be called to account for and I think that when that happens that people will understand that there are alternatives, that there were alternatives and in the future there is an alternative way that Scotland could be governed.”