SCOTTISH Labour’s by-election candidate's claim that he will go against Keir Starmer on controversial policies has been branded "not good enough" by the First Minister. 

Michael Shanks, Labour’s candidate in the contest to replace former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, who was removed through a recall petition, said he would vote to abolish the two-child benefit cap if he wins the seat.

However, First Minister Humza Yousaf rubbished the claims – and pointed out that Starmer would have to bring a vote on the issue for Shanks to go against it, something the UK Labour leader has repeatedly ruled out in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, both the SNP and Labour launched their campaigns for the hotly contested seat in Rutherglen.

READ MORE: Jackie Baillie insists Scottish Labour running Rutherglen by-election

Shanks described the two-child benefit limit as “heinous” in an apparent bid to distance himself from the position of Starmer, who previously said his party would not remove the policy if they win the next General Election.

The Labour candidate also said he was opposed to the bedroom tax, another controversial Tory policy which UK Labour frontbenchers have refused to rule out keeping if they win power.

Questioned about his position on the UK two-child benefit cap, Shanks said: “It’s a heinous policy, dreamt up by a Conservative party out of touch with people’s priorities.

“Scottish Labour is opposed to the two-child cap, we’ll continue to oppose it and I’ll campaign against it.”

The National:

Asked why he was seeking election within a party that has said it will not remove the cap, Shanks replied it was committed to other reforms of benefits that would put more money in people’s pockets.

“I’ll be fighting for a whole suite of measures to lift people out of poverty like Labour did when they were last in government,” he said.

On the bedroom tax, Shanks said he was opposed to the policy but claimed Labour may be unable to get rid of it when they first come to power if they intend to be “responsible with fiscal policy”.

“We can’t just announce spending commitments before we’ve decided where the money would come from,” he told journalists.

READ MORE: 'Out of depth' Rishi Sunak panned following LBC phone-in

Pressed on whether people in his constituency could be assured he would vote against policies backed by his prospective UK colleagues, Shanks answered: “I will campaign for the abolishment of both these things because they are heinous policies.”

However, the First Minister took issue with Shanks’s assertions about how he would vote.

Speaking to journalists at the launch of the SNP candidate Katy Loudon’s campaign less than a mile from the Labour launch, Yousaf said that voters face a “stark choice” between the two parties.

Challenged on Shanks’ assertions that he would not back such policies, Yousaf said he would only be able to vote against them if a Labour government brought them to a vote, adding: “I’m afraid the Labour MP will do whatever, I’m certain, Keir Starmer tells him to do – but not only that, you can’t vote for something if Keir Starmer refuses to even bring it to Parliament.”

The National: The FM disputed Shank's claims that he would go against StarmerThe FM disputed Shank's claims that he would go against Starmer (Image: Colin Mearns)

It is “simply not good enough” for Shanks to be his party’s candidate while saying he would vote against them on certain issues, Yousaf said.

"It's not going to help the tens of thousands of children that are suffering and are in poverty as a result of the two-child limit," he said. 

"It's not going to help the many families who are suffering in Rutherglen and Hamilton West because of those cruel Tory policies."

Yousaf also committed to moving as fast as possible to hold the by-election, with the earliest possible date being October 5.