ANAS Sarwar has defended Labour’s decision to nominate General Election candidates in Scottish constituencies who are based hundreds of miles away.

The Scots Labour MSP and group leader was challenged on the issue after The Sunday National reported that their newest Westminster candidate, Melanie Ward, is based in London.

Ward, the chief executive of Medical Aid for Palestinians, had initially aimed to run for Labour in Beckenham and Penge, in the English capital.

She pledged to "win on my own doorstep" – but was defeated by Liam Conlon, who is Labour chief of staff Sue Gray’s son.

READ MORE: Glasgow Labour councillor quit amid sleaze probe over contract for son

Ward has instead been parachuted in to run in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after Labour removed their first candidate, Wilma Brown, following revelations of “racist” social media activity.

Elsewhere, Labour has selected Elizabeth Carr-Ellis, a councillor in Canterbury in Kent, to run in Angus and Perthshire Glens.

And it has chosen Eva Kestner, who works as a councillor in Lewisham in London, to run in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

Dr Lucy Beattie, who will run for the SNP against Kestner, told The Sunday National: “Labour can’t even find local members who believe enough in Labour to stand as candidates in Scottish constituencies – parachuting in paper candidates is a slap in the face to voters who deserve so much better.”

Speaking to media in Glasgow on Monday, Sarwar (below) insisted that the candidates had some kind of connection to Scotland, or “a story about Scotland”.

The National:

The Glasgow MSP told journalists: “I am not going to turn my back on somebody that has a love for Scotland, a story about Scotland, or a connection in Scotland that wants to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Speaking on Ward’s selection specifically, he said: “She is spending every minute of every day trying to get life-saving supplies into the Gaza Strip, to save people's lives, to get them the necessary treatment they need because of a completely broken health system.

“Nobody can tell me she is not a phenomenal candidate standing in a Scottish seat who would be a great champion for the Scottish Labour party, and deliver change for the Scottish people whilst also celebrating Labour's internationalism to defeat poverty and injustice right around the world.

“I'm proud of our candidates. We're brimming with talent, we're brimming with confidence, and I can't wait to elect a whole host of new Scottish MPs and a whole host of new Scottish Labour MSPs in government delivering for the Scottish people.”

Elsewhere, Sarwar appeared to pour cold water on any prospect of working with the SNP at Holyrood. New First Minister John Swinney is leading a minority administration and has praised the Scottish parliament’s other parties in a bid to begin a new culture of cooperation.

However, Sarwar claimed it was “galling” for the SNP leader to “now pretend he is the great unifier of our nation”.

He added: “The reality is that John Swinney has been at the heart of every SNP failure for the last 17 years, he’s been at the heart of the SNP leadership for the last 40 years.”