Richard Leonard quits as Scottish Labour leader
Richard Leonard has quit as Scottish Labour leader, saying the speculation around his leadership has become a “distraction”.
In a statement, Leonard said he had thought “long and hard” over the Christmas period and had come to the conclusion it was “in the best interests of the party” to stand down.
Leonard has led the Scottish Labour Party for three years, but his leadership has been widely criticised and last September he faced a motion of no confidence.
The motion was submitted by four Labour MSPs, who were joined in public calls for his resignation by other Labour figures, but it was later withdrawn.
In his statement, Leonard said “Scotland needs a Labour government now more than ever before”, citing the way both the UK and Scottish governments have “mishandled” the response to COVID as one of the key factors.
He continued: “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 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.”
Leonard added: “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.”
Leonard became leader of the Scottish Labour Party in November 2017 following the resignation of Kezia Dugdale.