Anas Sarwar, the centre-left candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership, has won backing from steel union Community after his rival picked up a series of endorsements from across the labour movement.
Community today swung behind Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, after two-thirds of its members backed him a special ballot.
Leonard is thought to have the backing of aides to Jeremy Corbyn, although the party leader is staying out of the contest.
This afternoon Sarwar issued a veiled jibe at his rival’s endorsements when he thanked Community – of which he is a member – and said they were the “only major union to have balloted its members during the leadership contest”.
Trade unions normally agree backing for leadership candidates after a meeting of their executive committee, who are elected by members.
“Community members come from all industries and walks of life, but the union recognises that we live in a changing world,” Sarwar added.
“We need to equip our workers for the world of tomorrow, which is why I have announced policies such as the Scotland Guarantee – a job, training place or education for every school-leaver – and an apprenticeship programme for all ages to allow Scots to learn new skills.”
John Paul McHugh, Community’s assistant general secretary, said: “Scottish Labour needs fresh ideas and strong leadership; Anas Sarwar will deliver both. He has already set out plans to create new jobs and tackle child poverty. These are policies that will make a real difference to the lives of our members.”
A spokeswoman for Leonard’s campaign said: “After receiving the backing of all but one of the trade unions to declare, we are also very pleased with the unexpectedly high percentage vote for Richard in the union that Anas is a member of.”