SCOTTISH Labour have been given £1 million by the central UK leadership in order to target 25 seats north of the Border at the next General Election, according to reports.

The money was sent to Anas Sarwar’s Scottish group after Keir Starmer “sacked Richard Leonard” as leader, according to Patrick Maguire in the Times.

It was also reported that the “backroom communications and campaigns staff” of Scottish and UK Labour have been “integrated” – suggesting the London team has taken control despite protestations to the contrary from the Scottish group.

On Wednesday, Jackie Baillie insisted that Scottish Labour were running the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election campaign.

But the previous day, Baillie's comments on the news that the petition to recall Margaret Ferrier was successful had oddly been emailed out by the UK team's press office, not the usual Scottish one. 

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The upcoming vote is seen as a key test for Starmer’s leadership and hopes at the next General Election – expected late in 2024.

Labour have further selected Imogen Walker, the wife of key Keir Starmer adviser Morgan McSweeney, to run in Lanark and Hamilton East at that election.

Douglas Alexander, a former Scottish secretary in Tony Blair’s government, has also been picked by the party to run in East Lothian.

In all, Sarwar and Scottish Labour think they may be able to target 25 Scottish seats, according to the Times.

Such a number would require the party to win around one in five SNP voters over. If they could manage to convince one in 10, then they hope to win 10 seats.

Unionist tactical voting may also help Labour, with people looking to a pro-UK candidate in seats where the Conservatives and LibDems stand no hope of winning – Rutherglen and Hamilton West being one example.

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Questions remain around whether Starmer’s Labour will be able to manage a majority at the next Westminster election, or if they will emerge only as the largest party in a hung parliament.

During the SNP leadership race, triggered in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, all three candidates said the price Labour would have to pay for SNP support to form a minority government would be a second independence referendum.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election is largely expected to go Labour’s way.

Their candidate, Michael Shanks, has insisted he will oppose Starmer at Westminster when it comes to issues such as the Bedroom Tax and the two-child benefit cap.

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Starmer’s willingness to embrace a continuation of Tory policies, including a pledge to honour any new oil and gas licences the Conservatives may approve, is seen by the SNP as a key campaigning point in their hopes of fending off a Labour resurgence.

Scots are reportedly less keen on Starmer than Sarwar, suggesting that Scottish Labour will be keen to draw a dividing line between them and their leaders in London – even if it does not exist.

Both Labour and the Scottish group have been asked for comment, specifically on whether reports that their “backroom communications and campaigns staff were integrated” are factual.