RICHARD Leonard faces his first real crisis as Labour leader after his MSPs turned against him over his reluctance to challenge Jeremy Corbyn on Kezia Dugdale’s legal fees.

The Scottish Labour Parliamentary Group yesterday released a statement offering his predecessor “support and solidarity”after Dugdale said she could be forced to declare herself bankrupt.

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Speaking to the Daily Record’s weekly podcast, the MSP revealed she was brought to one of her “lowest personal moments” after her lawyers emailed her to say the party had withdrawn financial support.

The former Scottish Labour leader is being sued for defamation after suggesting that a tweet by Wings Over Scotland’s editor Stuart Campbell was homophobic.

Labour’s previous general secretary Iain McNicol promised to support Dugdale, but he was replaced by Jennie Formby, a Corbyn supporter, in March.

“There was no question mark over it, they were going to support this case,” Dugdale said yesterday.

“Fast forward 18 months – and it’s pretty shocking it’s taken that long to get to the preliminary hearing, we’re not even at the full proof yet – and I had to find out by email from my solicitor that the Labour Party weren’t prepared to pay any more legal bills.

“Safe to say the one factor that’s changed in that time is the General Secretary, it’s a woman called Jennie Formby.

“When I found that out by email, I was pretty crushed to be honest.”

She added: “First of all, how was I going to pay? This could mean my house, my livelihood. You can’t be an MSP if you’re declared bankrupt.”

Dugdale could also have to pay Campbell’s legal costs if she loses.

“It’s enough to make me really worry about my personal financial security,” she said.

“I had a moment of crisis around how I’m going to pay, and secondly, how could my party do this to me?

“Because this is a real crisis point for me, I’ve been looking for support pretty much wherever I can find it. I twice tried to contact Jeremy Corbyn – someone I used to be in regular contact with, we’d regularly exchange texts – I know he’s read those messages but he’s yet to respond.”

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Leonard said he thought it unlikely bosses would change their minds: “I understand there is quite a lot of upset about that but my reading of it that the decision has been taken and the decision is not going to change.”

In a statement, chair of the Scottish Labour Parliamentary Group Mary Fee said: “On Tuesday 25 September, Kezia Dugdale MSP updated the Scottish Labour parliamentary group about the status of the legal action against her.

“The Labour group expressed full support and solidarity for Kezia in the case.”

The case stemmed from Dugdale’s reaction to a comment Campbell made about MSP Oliver Mundell.

Yesterday Campbell said: “It’s been mad watching Labour throw vast sums of money into defending the reputation of a straight white male Tory MSP, but I suppose that’s ‘Better Together’ for you.”