UNDER-PRESSURE Richard Leonard resisted repeated calls to back Labour’s only Scottish MP in the party’s deputy leadership race in a TV interview.

Ian Murray was the only Labour MP in Scotland left standing after December’s General Election.

The Edinburgh South politician is running to replace Tom Watson as the UK party’s second in command.

On the BBC’s Politics Scotland yesterday, host Gordon Brewer asked Leonard whether he would support Murray’s campaign.

But Leonard – who has declined to back anyone in the UK Labour leadership contest triggered by Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to step down – repeatedly refused to do so.

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Leonard told Brewer: “There are a good range of candidates who are standing to be the deputy leader of the Labour Party.”

When asked again, he said: “Ian is a very, very competent candidate who is saying some interesting things, whether it’s around the Scottish constitutional question, where the Labour Party needs to be, the need for a long-term vision.

“But the other candidates are also setting out their stall as well, so I’m not going to come out and publicly back one candidate or the other.”

Pressed again on why he wouldn’t come out for his only Scottish MP, Leonard replied: “I’m not going to make a public declaration about which candidate for leader or which candidate for deputy leader I’m backing, because I will need to work with whoever is elected.”

He went on: “In the end it’s a political choice for members of the Labour Party to make across the whole of the UK, and they will exercise that right and make that choice about who they think is the best leadership team to help lead us towards the next General Election.”

While Leonard has refused to set out his stall, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has endorsed him.

Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair also tweeted that there is a “strong argument” from Murray which “needs to be made – and heard – if Labour is going to once again become a party of government”.

On Saturday, the workers union Unison Scotland voted to support the right of the Scottish Parliament to have the authority to call a second independence referendum. Leonard told the programme that showed how some had been “driven to anger” and despair by the “prospect of five more years of a Boris Johnson government”.

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While the PM has refused to transfer Holyrood Section 30 powers to hold a referendum, Unison Scotland said it will take the issue forward at the April congress of the STUC, Scotland’s trade unions umbrella body.

The Unison Scotland vote came one day after Nicola Sturgeon revealed her plan to establish a cross-party constitutional convention and insisted that any ballot “must be legal and legitimate” – something which saw some independence advocates call for more rapid action.

But Leonard said many within the SNP have “very little appetite for a referendum to be called in the very near future”.

Leonard said he will “listen to Unison, who are an important part not just of the Labour movement but of the Labour Party”, but added: “The prospectus for independence put forward by the SNP and their Growth Commission report is one for a very hard dose of austerity which would lead to cuts in public services that Unison and other public sector trade union members work in.”

Leadership favourite Keir Starmer has said an SNP majority in next year’s Holyrood election would provide a mandate for another vote. Leonard confirmed Starmer had not consulted him first, adding: “It shouldn’t be for the politicians from other parts of the UK to pronounce on these issue. The decision on this question, of all questions, needs to be made in Scotland by the Scottish Labour Party.”