A DELEGATION of Labour MSPs have told leader Richard Leonard he should step aside before the party faces oblivion at next year's Scottish Parliament election, it has emerged.

The group was reportedly led by frontbench team member James Kelly, the party's justice spokesman at Holyrood, and follows a coup which saw Jackson Carlaw ousted as the Scottish Tory chief.

A YouGov poll earlier this month suggested that Leonard was an unknown figure for many Scottish voters with some 53% not having an opinion of him after three years as leader The poll also showed support for Labour at 14% in both the constituency and regional list votes ahead of the May election which if replicated then would leave the party on course to lose five seats at Holyrood and drop to 18 MSPs.

Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University said: "What can be said is that Leonard has made the least impact of any Labour leader. No other has been persistently at over 50% "don't knows" in opinion surveys. Leonard is not so much disliked as ignored."

Dismayed by Leonard's performance at Holyrood last week when the Scottish Labour boss pressed Nicola Sturgeon on policies she had already committed to - and also saw him labelled Boris Johnson's "chief cheerleader by the First Minister - one Labour MSP said it added "incompetence" to his "litany of failures".

The Sunday Times reported that the MSPs’ confrontation with Leonard happened two weeks ago shortly after Carlaw announced he was standing down as Scottish Tory boss.

Leonard supporters say he retains the trust of the unions and grassroots members and accuse MSPs of scheming against him.

A spokesman for Leonard said the Labour leader had "regular discussions with the members of the Scottish Labour MSP group" and that the topics were confidential. He insisted Leonard is leading the party into the 2021 Holyrood elections.