Richard Leonard said he wants to reignite the spark between the Labour party and workers to win back lost support.

Having last week seen off a very public and vocal challenge to his authority from within his own group of MSPs, the leader is looking to the wider Labour movement to take his party forward.

Since moving to Scotland from Yorkshire to study in the 1980s, he has been steeped in the union movement and the Labour Party and wants that alliance re-forged.

Speaking to the Glasgow Times, he said: “I have worked a long time in the trade union movement. I know how important that link is between Labour and working people.

“I want to refocus the alliance between Labour and the workforce. We have got to be able to convince them their best hope for them and their kids lies with Labour. I want to deepen and revitalize those links.”

He is months away from the big test of his leadership when the next Scottish Parliament elections are held.

If he is still in place next May, anything less than second place will be seen as a failure and the calls to resign will return.

Mr Leonard knows that winning back lost votes in Glasgow and reclaiming seats in the city is a must if his party is to recover.

He says the long-standing problems in the city, compounded by the Covid induced economic crisis, are at the heart of his agenda.

Mr Leonard said: “When the Job Retention Scheme judders to a halt in October the landscape in Glasgow is going to really awful.

“Massive redundancies, businesses are not going to re-open. The high streets around Glasgow are going to be on their knees.”

His idea is for government to provide the support needed to specific industries until the economy recovers.

He singled out one of the biggest employers and drivers of the economy in the west of Scotland as an example.

He said: “We are facing immediate challenges too, like at Glasgow Airport and the parlous state of jobs there which is facing catastrophic levels of redundancies.

“Demand for air travel will go back up again, the demand for the labour force is going to be resumed. What can we do to give those workers protection in the interim. We can’t abandon them.

“We need more planning and less reliance on the market. We have seen more co-operation between the Scottish Government and trades unions. That needs to be on a more stable footing.

Glasgow Times:

“We need tripartite working between trades unions, business and government to retain existing jobs.”

And those jobs, especially in Glasgow, particularly for young people, he says, are not secure enough and do not pay enough.

He said: “The Glasgow economy has been predicated too often on low paid work.

“One in three kids are living in poverty. And two thirds of them are in households where an adult is in work.”

The SNP, in power at Holyrood and the City Chambers he said have let the city down.

The party however has come out on top in every election, bar one, in the city since 2011.

But Mr Leonard says the focus on independence and a second referendum will take a back seat to more urgent concerns of the economy and health, giving Labour an opportunity to be heard.

He said: “I think the dial of politics has moved on. Once people start to review the government handling of the pandemic and the scandal in care homes, people will see the priority of the next five years is not about a continuing wrangle about a referendum but fixing the urgent challenges like stimulating employment.

“In care homes we have had the violation of human rights, do not resuscitate notices early discharge of people from hospital into care homes.

“We have to hold government to account for the way it has handled the pandemic. There will be a day of reckoning. And for the management of the NHS and at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“The SNP is in power at Holyrood and at the City Chambers. There are questions to answer whether they have stood up for Glasgow or not.”

Mr Leonard is not making any claims he will be the First Minister in 2021 and refused to be drawn on what would be success.

Instead he said it is progress that is his aim. More votes, more seats, he said and a platform to build on.

And he is looking to move on from questions over his leadership.

He said: “Any pressure I’ve been though is nothing compared to those people not knowing if they can feed their family or if they will be in work at the end of the year. That’s pressure.

“I want to fight for every vote, for every seat. There is a change to get across our message in a radical transformative manifesto that’s that is needed for people in Glasgow.”