SCOTTISH Labour leadership front runner Richard Leonard has signalled he will give his rival Anas Sarwar a post in his shadow cabinet if he wins the contest.

The move will be seen as a bid to unite the party after an acrimonious campaign in which each of the camps has made strong and sometimes personal attacks on the other.

But as the countdown begins to the unveiling of the winner on November 18, a spokesman for Leonard, an MSP for Central Scotland, held out an olive branch to his opponent.

“Any Labour cabinet would benefit greatly from having Anas as a member. We have real talent and wide experience within our Labour Group,” said a spokeswoman for the Leonard campaign.

“Richard’s main focus right now is on meeting people and gaining support for his message of real change – members are more interested in hearing our policies, and not taking their vote for granted.”

Earlier this week the contenders agreed not to challenge the result in the courts if they lose and would both accept the result of the contest, even if they lose narrowly, but to date Leonard has not explicitly said Sarwar would be in his team. At hustings events Sarwar has suggested Leonard would be in his shadow cabinet.

A spokesman for the Sarwar campaign said: “We’re focused on winning with our positive message and policy platform to support permanent UK membership of the EU single market, a redistributive income tax proposal, and radical use of our welfare powers to lift children out of poverty.

“Anas is the candidate who can unite the party, and he has already said that Richard would have a senior role in his team. After this contest, everyone in Scottish Labour will work together to defeat the SNP and elect the Labour government that Scotland needs.”

The contest began in September after former leader Kezia Dugdale stood down following a visit to Scotland by UK party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But it quickly became marked by accusations of vote rigging and claims of underhand tactics by both sides. Sarwar sought legal advice after it emerged the Unite trade union had signed up members to vote by text message.

Leonard did not seek legal advice even though members of his campaign were angered by what appeared to be large numbers of members signed up in Glasgow, some of whom shared email addresses and phone numbers with several others.

The attacks spilt over into the personal with Leonard accused of plotting to undermine Dugdale – a claim Leonard denies.

Last month Leonard’s ally Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of the Unite trade union, hit out at Sarwar over his decision to send his children to a private school.

Allegations of a plot first boiled over in the last week of September after a leaked recording of interim leader Alex Rowley appeared in the press.

Rowley, who had promised to be neutral in the leadership contest, was recorded telling a student at the UK Labour conference that he backed his fellow left-winger Leonard.

Rowley also admitted he and others on the left made contingency plans for Dugdale’s departure in the belief she could quit before the 2021 Holyrood election. It prompted one of Sarwar’s closest allies, Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, to denounce Rowley and claim he and Leonard had plotted against Dugdale.