The Scottish Labour leader has denied giving Labour councillors in North Lanarkshire "a bollocking" over a rapid u-turn on the closure of leisure facilities.

Anas Sarwar was quizzed by journalists today on the campaign trail in Blantyre about a highly controversial decision to shut 39 leisure centres and community hubs across the local authority.

The decision was voted through by councillors last week but now - just 48 hours before a crucial by-election - the decision has been reversed.

READ MORE: Sudden u-turn on decision to close 39 North Lanarkshire leisure facilities 

Labour candidate Michael Shanks is hotly-tipped to win the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat vacated by for SNP MP Margaret Ferrier and insiders say the Labour council decision was causing headaches for the campaign.

The decision to close the facilities looked set to derail the last few days of Labour's campaign in the crunch Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, prompting an intervention from the party leadership.

The statement from council leader Jim Logue announcing the u-turn was published just as Anas Sarwar spoke to journalists in Blantyre.

Asked if he had given his colleagues a "bollocking", the Scottish Labour leader said: "As I made clear, I don't blame Labour councils, I don't blame SNP councils.

"I think councils across the country are having to make really, really difficult decisions that they do not want to make because they don't have a fair funding settlement from an SNP Scottish Government.

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire is closing the shutters on my childhood

"And so my call would be whether you are an SNP councillor or whether you're a Labour councillor, well, let's work together to demand a fair funding deal for local authorities and local communities.

"Stand up for your local community first, not for an SNP Scottish Government that has lost its way, that is demonstrating financial mismanagement, that is completely economically illiterate, that is incompetent, and let's have a fair funding deal in North Lanarkshire, here in South Lanarkshire, also across the country."

Asked again if he had given his colleagues a row, he replied: "Look, I made my views very clear."

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said the announcement by the Labour group would be considered by the council "in due course".