Staunch Jeremy Corbyn supporter Richard Leonard has been named Scottish Labour leader after defeating his rival Anas Sarwar.
Leonard won with 56.7% of the vote and a clear majority amongst members and affiliated supporters in an election which will cement Corbyn’s powerbase in the party across the UK.
He told the crowd at his election in Scotland today that the party north of the border “will become a movement for socialism” under his leadership, adding “we need a change to the political culture”.
He also said Sarwar “will have a vital role to play” and pledged to make Scottish Labour “the party of real change” that is capable of ending what he called “a decade of nationalist mediocrity”.
The Central Scotland MSP will take on SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson at the Holyrood elections in 2021.
Leonard added: “My aim is to be the next Labour First Minister.”
Scottish Labour leadership results:
Richard Leonard 3,281 77.3%
Anas Sarwar 961 22.7%
Leonard 9,150 51.8%
Anas Sarwar 8,514 48.2%
Leonard 12,469 56.7%
Sarwar 9,516 43.3%
Leonard said: “With this new movement for real change, energised with this new generation helping to lead it.
“But founded on our old and enduring idealism too.
“That is the unity we can rally around, not simply a call for unity but around a renewed unity of purpose.
“And our shared purpose is clear, to build again, to win again.
“So that our purpose today is not just elected a leader. My aim is to be the next Labour First Minister of Scotland.”
The contest was sparked after Kezia Dugdale’s shock resignation in August and has been an acrimonious affair.
It was also announced this week that Dugdale will be a contestant on the jungle reality show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, travelling to Australia while remaining an MSP.
When asked if Dugdale will be suspended over the move, Leonard told STV News: “Well we will need to have a discussion as a group next week.
“I think we will arrive at a collective decision.
“There is no doubt that when I heard the news this morning and saw some of the social media comments coming in there was a big frenzy of reaction against it.
“But I think we will need to give it due consideration as a group over the course of the next few days.”
It is thought Dugdale will donate her salary to charity while appearing on the show, but the move has attracted a slew of criticism.
Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, congratulated Leonard on his win.
He said: “I would like to congratulate Richard Leonard on being elected the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and Anas Sarwar for his energetic campaign.
“After being written off time and again, the General Election showed that our Party is capturing the mood both in Scotland and across the rest of the UK.
“There is much to do to continue our party’s revival in Scotland and many who still need to be persuaded to put their trust in the Labour Party. But Richard’s campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society. This can be a turning point in Scottish politics and our party will now come together, united to challenge Tory and SNP austerity that has held Scotland back.
“I am confident that under Richard’s leadership, Labour will once again be a real force for change in Scotland. I look forward to campaigning with him in Scotland next week as we build a movement that will help our party win in Holyrood and Westminster, to transform our country for the many not the few.”
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and acting interim leader, has also been suspended amid allegations about his conduct towards his ex-partner.
It could mean a contest for deputy in the coming weeks.