Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard resigns with immediate effect

14 January 2021, 17:11

Richard Leonard is closely associated with the former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Richard Leonard is closely associated with the former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has resigned with immediate effect, following calls from his own MSPs to step down ahead of the forthcoming elections in Scotland.

The 59-year-old, who had served as the head of the party since 2017, said his decision to step aside "was not an easy decision, but after three years I feel it is the right one for me and for the party".

It came following pressure from within his own party to stand down over concerns his leadership style could damage the party.

He is also closely associated with the former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Leonard, an MSP for Central Scotland, also said: "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.

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"I retain my faith in the Labour Party as the party that offers hope to people and that remains the only vehicle for the realisation of that hope.

"Whilst I step down from the leadership today, the work goes on, and I will play my constructive part as an MSP in winning support for Labour's vision of a better future in a democratic economy and a socialist society."

Sir Keir Starmer said Richard Leonard should be "very proud" of his achievements as Scottish Labour leader.

The Labour leader said: "I would like to thank Richard for his service to our party and his unwavering commitment to the values he believes in.

"Richard has led Scottish Labour through one of the most challenging and difficult periods in our country's history, including a general election and the pandemic.

"Even from opposition, he has achieved a considerable amount for which he should be very proud.

"This includes securing a commitment for the creation of a national care service, securing action on a Jobs Guarantee Scheme to deal with youth unemployment, securing a human rights-based public inquiry into the treatment of care home residents during the Covid pandemic and securing support for a Fair Rents Bill to give new rights to tenants.

"He has done so with dedication to the values of our movement.

"I wish Richard the very best for the future as one of our MSPs and know that he will continue to play an important role in Scottish Labour."

The next leader will be the eighth in 14 years.

Scottish Labour dominated politics north of the border for years but it is now the third biggest party, behind the SNP and Conservatives.