Kezia Dugdale, Labour and Co-operative MSP for the Lothians, has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour Party with immediate effect.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to have served this party in a leadership position for the last two and a half years, covering four national elections and one referendum,” she wrote in her resignation letter.
“I have given the task all that I have. But with nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.”
The Scottish Co-operative Party backed Ms Dugdale in the race for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party, which she won in August 2015, just four years after being elected to the Scottish parliament. At the time she was shadow cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, and chair of the Scottish Parliament Group of Co-operative MSPs.
“The Scottish Co-operative Party is sorry to see Kezia Dugdale resign as Scottish Labour leader,” said Richard McCready, the party’s Scottish Political Officer.
“Kezia has been a strong champion of co-operation in her role as a local MSP and as Scottish Labour leader. Her Debtbusters campaign against payday lenders and in support of credit unions was remarkable.”
Mr McCready described how co-operation had “been at the heart of her politics as Scottish Labour leader”, with strong support for the party’s People’s ScotRail and People’s Bus campaign.
“We would like to thank Kezia for all her hard work on our behalf as Scottish Labour leader,” he added. “The Scottish Co-operative Party looks forward to continuing to work with Kezia in the future and we are sure that she will continue to be a champion of the co-operative movement in the Lothians and in the Scottish Parliament.’
Under her leadership, Labour finished third behind the SNP and Scottish Conservatives in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but won seven seats in the snap general election in June. She had been booked as Scottish Labour leader to speak at this year’s centenary Co-op Party conference in October.
She has previously criticised UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, but denied suggestions that she was leaving now to avoid being pushed out by his supporters. Mr Corbyn recently completed a five-day tour of marginal seats in Scotland, attending speeches and rallies.
Ms Dugdale, who is leaving with immediate effect, told the BBC she had devoted “every waking moment of my life” to improving Labour’s fortunes in Scotland and that the party now ready for someone else to take it on the next stage of its journey.
“I have thought long and hard about this,” she added, “And I have just come to the conclusion that the best thing for it, the Labour Party, this precious, precious thing that has done so much good in our country, and indeed for me, is to pass that baton on.”
Claire McCarthy, Co-operative Party general secretary, called Ms Dugdale “a great champion of our co-operative movement”.
— Claire McCarthy (@CoopClaire) August 29, 2017
And SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, a fierce critic of Ms Dugdale in Holyrood, praised her for leading the party “with guts and determination”.
We may be opponents, but @kezdugdale led her party with guts and determination and I admired her for that. I wish her well for the future.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 29, 2017
“I’d like to thank Kezia Dugdale for her work as Scottish Labour leader and the important role she has played in rebuilding the party in Scotland,” said Jeremy Corbyn.
“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. I want to thank Kez for her tireless service to our party and movement, and look forward to campaigning with her in future.”