On 29 August, Kezia Dugdale stood down with immediate effect from her position as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
In her resignation letter to the Scottish Executive Committee, Dugdale stated that in time for the next Holyrood election in 2021, “the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.”
An MSP since 2011, Dugdale assumed the leadership of the Party following Labour’s losses to the SNP in the 2015 General Election.
Under her tenure, Scottish Labour lost further seats in the 2016 election but regained ground in 2017, where the number of Scottish Labour MPs at Westminster increased from one to seven.
Speaking to The Student, Iain Gray, MSP for East Lothian and former leader of Scottish Labour, said: “Kezia has been an excellent leader for Scottish Labour, bringing us back from a very low point when she took over, and leaving us with a positive platform for the future.
“As Kez’s education spokesperson,” he continued, “I can testify that of all issues this was the one closest to her heart, believing as she does that everyone is entitled to the best possible education, whatever their background. Kez can be proud of her contribution.”
Chloë Marvin, Chair of Edinburgh Labour Students, told The Student that, “It was Kez’s speech at the Scottish Labour Conference in 2015 that inspired me to get more involved with the Labour Party.
“Since then, she has fought tirelessly for those without a voice. I don’t think Kez ever received enough gratitude for taking on one of the most undesirable jobs in politics back in 2015. She really will be a tough act to follow.”
When news of Dugdale’s resignation broke, UK Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn released a statement thanking her for contribution stating: “Kezia became Scottish leader at one of the most difficult times in the history of the Scottish Labour Party and the party’s revival is now fully under way, with six new MPs and many more to come.”
Before a leadership contest to replace Dugdale occurs, Alex Rowley will act as Scottish Labour leader in the interim.
Thus far, Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar have both declared their intention to run in the leadership election.
Leonard – an MSP for Central Scotland and Shadow Economy Minister – was first elected in last year’s Holyrood elections having previously been an industrial organiser for the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union (GMB) for 20 years.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, he argued that Labour must take more risks in order to win back Scottish support.
“The Labour vote is picking up but that is not enough,” he said: “Too many of our young people are in precarious jobs, too many of our older people live in fuel poverty.”
Leonard is predicted to win the backing of trade unions and prove popular with Corbyn’s supporters on the left of the party.
Sarwar is a high profile MSP for Glasgow and Holyrood health spokesman, a former MP and former Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour.
He told The Sunday Mail: “The next Scottish Labour leader must unite our movement, continue to build confidence among voters and ensure the party are back where we should be – united, radical and in power.”
Sarwar has already won the support of almost half of Scottish Labour’s parliamentarians, with 15 out of the 32 members pledging their support for his leadership bid.
Labour’s Scottish Executive Committee met on 9 September to confirm the rules and time line for the leadership contest. The contest is not likely to be concluded until mid-November.
Image: Scottish Labour