POLITICS

Kezia Dugdale Resigns As Leader Of The Scottish Labour Party

Dugdale has been a vocal a critic of Jeremy Corbyn.

29/08/2017 22:57 BST | Updated 30/08/2017 12:00 BST

Kezia Dugdale has resigned as leader of Scottish Labour, saying it is time to “pass on the baton” to someone else.

Dugdale, who is leaving the position with immediate effect, threw her weight behind Owen Smith when he challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership and has faced criticism from left-wing members of her own party.

She insisted she was not leaving the role before she was pushed and that a new leader was needed with “fresh energy, drive and a new mandate”.

Dugdale said she wanted to give her successor the “space and time” to prepare for the next Scottish Parliament election in 2021.

PA Archive/PA Images
Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn at the Scottish Labour Party Conference.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, she said she had taken over the leadership when the party was “on its knees” in Scotland.

Dugdale said: “I have thought long and hard about this. I care deeply about the Labour Party - I love it and I have devoted my adult life to serving it in a number of different capacities.

“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.” 

Labour MPs immediately paid tribute ...

... there were even kind words from her rivals. 

Dugdale replaced Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader in August 2015, after the party lost all but one of its Westminster seats in Scotland to the SNP.

Under her leadership, Labour finished third behind the SNP and Scottish Conservatives in last year’s Scottish Parliament election - but went on to win seven seats in the snap general election in June.

She told the Daily Record: “Too often, our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way.

“There will be no press conference and no off-the-record briefing in my name.

“I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.”

Jenny Gilruth and Kezia Dugdale

Dugdale’s period as leader has also been an eventful time for her the Lothians MSP’s personal life.

The 36-year-old announced her engagement to long-term partner Louise Riddell last summer but the couple split after nine years last Christmas.

Last month, Dugdale announced she was in a new relationship with the SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth. But Dugdale said the relationship has had “absolutely zero” impact on her decision to quit. 

The death of her close friend Gordon Aikman had made her rethink her priorities, she said. 

PA Archive/PA Images
Motor Neurone Disease patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman (centre) meets politicians (left to right) Kezia Dugdale Scottish Labour leadership candidate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Havey Scottish Green Party leader, Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservative leader and Willie Rennie Scottish Liberal Democracy leader during a photocall at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to mark Motor Neurone Disease Awareness Week.

Aikman died, aged 31, of motor neurone disease in February. He had raised more than £500,000 for research into the condition.

Dugdale said: “In terms of personal relationships, the death of my dear friend Gordon Aikman has had much more impact on making me evaluate what I want from life.”