SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has sparked anger inside her own party for disappearing to the US at a time of momentous political events back home.

She has come under fire for fleeing Scotland for five weeks – on the day she launched a campaign claiming she was going to use the summer to hold the SNP government to account.

Party insiders also told The National they were furious that instead of taking the lead in Scotland on major issues like the resignation of David Cameron and the appointment of Theresa May, she vanished on a freebie to America – where she wrote articles about visiting Capitol Hill and the Rocky Mountains and tweeted about US politics.

While she was on her trip, Owen Smith officially threw his hat into the ring to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership contest which has caused major divisions within the party.

Scottish Labour confirmed Dugdale spent two weeks in July on a leadership programme to the States, paid for by the US Government, followed by a further four days at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia and is now on holiday with her partner Louise Riddell.

The party insisted she was entitled to a holiday and defended her US trip saying she met with trade unions, government officials and charity workers, and kept in touch with staff back in Scotland.

Dugdale regularly tweeted from the US about US politics and the nomination of Hilary Clinton and she boasted about her trip in an article saying she had travelled from Capitol Hill to the Rockies and Southern California. However Scottish Labour insiders back in Scotland were left furious for being “left rudderless” during major political turmoil.

One source said: “It is absolutely outrageous that the leader of Scottish Labour should swan off to America when her own country needs her more than ever. It is a joke and many of us are feeling totally disillusioned with Labour in Scotland.

“She left the party rudderless and went on a jaunt to the USA.

If she can’t be bothered being here to defend the party when it is crumbling before our very eyes, why should we support it? It seems to us that she doesn’t really care and it is causing even more unrest within the party.”

Another said he was becoming “increasingly disillusioned” by the leadership in Scotland and insisted it was in “dire” need of a massive shake up.

He added: “What the hell is going on with Scottish Labour when the leader cannot even be bothered to stay in the same country when the UK is in crisis?

“While she’s been away there have been a host of major issues which should have been addressed by our leader.

“We needed a voice from Scottish Labour when the UK was in turmoil over Brexit and when Cameron stood down to let Theresa May take over but where was she? Answer: She was too busy commenting on US politics and that hasn’t gone down well.

“I think it is time for another change. It cannot go on like this.

It has become a laughing stock.

“As the leader of a political party on its knees and heading for obliteration, she should have been here standing strong in her summer campaign taking on the Scottish Government and addressing major issues affecting the union and our continuing involvement in the EU.”

During her American travels, Dugdale took time out to write about her journey in several newspapers but there was no mention of troubles back home.

She wrote: “The trip has taken me from the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington DC to the foot of the Rocky Mountains and the edge of the Pacific ocean in Southern California. Each speaks to the greatness, the expanse and the diversity of these United States. United often in their loathing of the federal government and the establishment that underpins it.”

Dugdale attended the Democratic Convention for four days after the International Visitor Leadership Programme – which is geared towards political issues in the States.

She was the only political leader on the course and was joined by North East Scottish Tory MSP Ross Thomson, SNP MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes Jenny Gilruth, Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff Elizabeth Lloyd and WWF Scotland director Lang Banks.

A spokesman for Dugdale said she was on the delegation in the States for two weeks and at the convention for four days, now she is on “on a break with her partner”.

He added: “Kez visited the US as part of a cross-party delegation, which included the First Minister’s chief of staff and MSPs from across the Parliament.

“She met with trade unionists, government officials, charity workers and elected representatives to discuss building closer links with Scotland and sharing ideas about closing the attainment gap, investing in low carbon technologies and addressing the impact of Brexit.

“The idea that politicians shouldn’t learn from other countries is narrow minded, insular nonsense.

“Whilst in the US, Kez remained in constant contact with staff in Scotland. Modern technology is a wonderful thing.”