Scottish Labour’s top official has angrily denied the party has ever been a ‘branch office’ of London.

General Secretary John Paul McHugh launched into a fiery defence of Scottish Labour as he addressed delegates at the start of its conference in Glasgow.

“Branch office? Not then, not now and not ever,” he said.

Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont coined the phrase when she stood down in 2014 after tense relations with the UK party, then led by Ed Miliband.

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Announcing her resignation, she said: “The Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London.”

The phrase was immediately seized upon by the SNP, who said it showed only they could be trusted to speak up for Scotland as Labour would always be beholden to its London HQ.

Speaking to Labour activists at the SEC, Mr McHugh insisted the Scottish and UK Labour parties were working together in sync on the election campaign.

He then reeled off a series of council by-election wins for Labour.

He said the campaign was “operating is operating that none of us have ever seen and our opponents know that only too well”.

He said: “Voters are seeing a different Labour party, a party that has changed politically, operationally, financially, and strategically. 

“But our campaign will always be measured by what we do on the ground.

“And the more we do together the stronger that campaign will be.

“Now, conference, before I finish, let’s get one thing straight.

“Very often I hear this ‘branch office’ reference. Let me share my view.

“In the past year - Bellshill, Labour gain; East Kilbride, Labour gain; Livingston, Labour gain; Motherwell, Labour gain. Branch office? Not then, not now, and not ever.”

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Scottish leader Anas Sarwar is due to give his keynote speech this afternoon.