Less than four months before Scots go to the polls for Holyrood elections, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has announced his resignation.
In a statement to the Daily Herald on Thursday afternoon, Leonard said: “I have come to the conclusion it is in the best interests of the party that I step aside as leader of Scottish Labour with immediate effect.
“This was not an easy decision, but after three years I feel it is the right one for me and for the Party.
“I have thought long and hard over the Christmas period about what this crisis means, and the approach Scottish Labour takes to help tackle it. I have also considered what the speculation about my leadership does to our ability to get Labour’s message across. This has become a distraction.
“I want to thank all those people who placed their hopes in me, and who worked with me in good times and bad. This experience and the great people I have met will live with me forever. I owe a huge debt in particular to all those party members who work tirelessly for the cause of Labour.”
Leonard, a left-winger who represents Central Scotland in Holyrood, was elected in 2017 in a contest against self-described ‘Brownite’ Anas Sarwar MSP.
Minutes after Leonard’s resignation, BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley tweeted: “I’m told Anas Sarwar is favourite to replace Richard Leonard”.
I’m told Anas Sarwar is favourite to replace Richard Leonard
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) January 14, 2021
Under Leonard’s leadership, Labour lost both of its Scottish MEP seats in 2019’s EU election, and six of its seven MPs in the general election that followed it.
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie MSP will serve as acting leader until a replacement is elected.