SIR Keir Starmer has suggested he sacked Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader.

His sudden resignation in January 2021, just weeks before the Holyrood election, shocked colleagues, and came not long after he managed to see off a coup from his backbenchers. 

At the time, it was reported that he left his post after Sir Keir told senior party colleagues and potential donors he had no confidence in his leadership. 

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In an interview with the Times to mark his third year as leader, Sir Keir said that central to pushing Labour forward across the UK was taking “some pretty ruthless decisions."

He also highlighted barring Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate and Jennie Formby leaving as general secretary.

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He told the paper: “We knew what we had to do with the general secretary. Look at Scotland for example now Sturgeon has gone.

"We may have an opportunity to win votes. But frankly, if we hadn’t changed the leader in Scotland two years ago, we would be at base camp rather than in a position to take advantage of that.”

In a statement released at the time, Mr Leonard said he “thought long and hard over the Christmas period” and speculation about his leadership had “become a distraction”.

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In 2019, Scottish Labour lost six of its seven Scottish MPs in the general election, and their vote collapsed completely at the European elections, down to just 9.3 per cent, down from 26% in 2014.

An ally of Mr Leonard’s told the paper: “Richard does at least hold one leader called Keir in high esteem.”

The SNP's deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black said the comment from the Labour leader was proof that the Scottish party was a "branch office."

She said: “Keir Starmer has admitted what we've all known for a very long time - that Scottish Labour is nothing more than a branch office under Westminster control. When Keir Starmer says jump, Anas Sarwar asks how high.

“By boasting about sacking Richard Leonard, Starmer has once again revealed the contempt he holds for Scottish democracy and has shown that Anas Sarwar will continue to play to Westminster's tune no matter the disastrous consequences for Scotland.

"Sarwar has already been forced to ditch his principles and back the pro-Brexit Labour Party's opposition to Scotland rejoining the EU. That's despite more people than ever before in Scotland rejecting Brexit.

"And he's failed to voice opposition to Keir Starmer's Tory spending cuts, which would see damaging real-terms cuts to public services, public sector pay and social security.

“We cannot trust the pro-Brexit Labour party to stand up for the people of Scotland anymore than we can trust the Tories. Westminster control is holding Scotland back and the only way we can flourish is by becoming an independent country.”