Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has labelled the SNP “dysfunctional” after Humza Yousaf’s party reportedly paused its selection process for a key by-election.

Labour is teeing up for a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West if Covid rule-breaking MP Margaret Ferrier is suspended from the House of Commons.

Ms Ferrier was suspended from the SNP after she admitted travelling between Scotland and England while positive with the virus in 2020.

The independent MP is currently appealing against a proposed 30-day sanction recommended by the Commons Standards Committee, which could trigger a by-election if 10 per cent of her constituents sign a recall petition.

Read more: Labour pick activist who quit party to be by-election candidate

Scottish Labour has already selected modern studies teacher Michael Shanks to contest the potential vote, and he will stand for the party in the general election expected next year.

But reports on Tuesday suggested that the First Minister has rejected a series of local candidates put forward for selection.

He told the Times: “It’s an important by-election potentially that will take place there and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got an excellent candidate in place, which I’m committed to doing.”

Mr Sarwar, whose party have identified the constituency as an important target, said he was not shocked to hear about the rumoured struggle to select an SNP candidate.

He said: “To be honest, I’m not surprised. This is a dysfunctional political party and I think they are too busy trying to solve their internal issues to actually be focused on, one, either building and growing their support, and second, for even delivering for people across the country.

Read more: Jackie Baillie says Rutherglen by-election 'hugely significant'

“We are relentlessly going to focus on ourselves, making sure we’re continuing to rebuild the Scottish Labour Party and making sure we’re continuing to build that trust and support and building up the ideas for the next election, whether that be in 2024 or 2026.

“We’re focusing on the people’s priorities, not focusing on dividing our country or indeed internal divisions, as seems to be the case with the SNP.”

Mr Sarwar, who was speaking to journalists on a visit to Glasgow Girls FC in the city’s Springboig area, added: “The SNP are dysfunctional, incoherent, and they are in the hunt for tactics as well as a strategy.”

Read more: Disgraced former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier to appeal Commons suspension

His comments come after deputy Labour leader Jackie Baillie said last week that defeat in the seat to the SNP would require some “soul-searching” in her party.

Ms Ferrier, who now sits as an independent MP, won the seat from Labour in 2019 with a 5% swing and a majority of 5,240.

Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, has warned that if her party fails to win the seat, it would be a disaster and would lead to some serious “soul searching."