Anas Sarwar dodged questions over whether Diane Abbott should be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the General Election.

The Scottish party leader said he had “huge respect” for the Hackney North MP and it was a question for the National Executive Committee.

Ms Abbott had the Labour whip suspended in April 2023 pending an investigation after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice, but not racism.

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The whip was restored on Tuesday, however, newspaper reports suggested she had been blacklisted from standing on July 4.

“Although the whip has been restored, I am banned from standing as a Labour candidate,” she told the BBC.

Speaking to journalists as he visited a warm homes project in the Glasgow East constituency, Mr Sarwar said: “The disciplinary process is of course an independent process. And what I do know is that the process has concluded and that Diane has had the Labour whip restored.

“And I know that of course, that selections in England are a matter for the NEC, just like selections in Scotland are a matter for the SEC.

“It's a decision for them.

“I don't know the outcome of that process, but what I do know is that Diane Abbott is a historic figure in the Labour Party and in British politics.

“She is a trailblazer. She made history when she became the first ever black woman to be elected as an MP.

“That's a huge achievement in itself. But let's be really clear that's not an only achievement, she has given great service to her constituents and to the Labour Party.”

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Mr Sarwar added: “She of course comes from a different part of the Labour Party from me but that's by the by that's irrelevant.

“The Labour Party is at its best when it is a broad church and serving diverse communities and communities of all backgrounds because we have to build an electoral coalition in order to deliver a Labour government.

“So it's a matter for the NEC, but I know I've got huge respect for Diane Abbott and the service she's given to the Labour Party.”

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Mr Sarwar denied that left-wingers were not welcome in Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party.

“I can look at my own party here in Scotland. We have a really great diverse group of MSPs, a great diverse group of candidates.

“I'm proud that we are a broad church party that seeking to build an electoral coalition to change our country.”

Later in the day, Sir Keir said no decision had been taken on whether she would be allowed to defend her seat.

He told reporters in Worcester: “The process that we were going through ended with the restoration of the whip the other day, so she’s a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party and no decision has been taken barring her.”

He added: “I’ve seen various reports, I can only tell you what the factual situation is – as you know, the whip has been restored to Diane Abbott and no decision’s been taken barring her from standing. That’s the factual position and I’ve been happy to say that when asked to do so.”

When asked whether anonymous briefings to journalists had “overshadowed” his campaign, he said: “Obviously, my whole focus is on the election campaign and we’re very happy to be out campaigning here today, talking about what we’re going to do in relation to the NHS to drive down those waiting lists.”

When asked whether he would like to see her stand again, Sir Keir said: “She’s got the whip back and no decision’s been taken to bar her.”

First Minister John Swinney said Ms Abbott’s treatment by the Labour Party has been “unfair”.

The SNP leader told Sky News: “It’s been a terrible shame the way in which Diane Abbott has been handled by the Labour Party and by Sir Keir Starmer.

“I remember Diane Abbott when I was in the House of Commons all those years ago, a really distinguished, significant parliamentarian. The first female black member of parliament, who made an outstanding contribution to the House of Commons.

“So I think she’s been really badly treated and I think it’s been really unfair.”