- Kezia Dugdale steps down as Scottish Labour leader.
- Dugdale has been a vocal critic of UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the past.
- Labour gained six seats in Scotland at the general election.
LONDON — Kezia Dugdale has resigned as Scottish Labour leader in a shock move, saying that the party needs a new leader with “fresh energy, drive and a new mandate.”
The Lothian MSP surprised the party on Tuesday night with the announcement, telling the BBC that it was time to “pass the baton” to someone else, quitting with immediate effect.
Dugdale, who became leader in 2015 after Jim Murphy’s resignation, said she had devoted “every waking moment of my life” to Labour and insisted she was leaving the party in a better state than when she found it.
She rebutted suggestions that she was resigning to avoid conflict with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, who she has criticised in the past.
Corbyn thanked Dugdale for “the important role she has played in rebuilding the party in Scotland.”
He said: “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.”
Dugdale said she was leaving in order to give “space and time” to her successor so they can prepare for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
Despite slipping to be the third-biggest party at Holyrood in 2016, Scottish Labour recovered to gain six seats at the general election and be in a strong position in a number of marginal seats across Scotland.
While Labour outperformed most forecasts north of the border at the June general election, the Conservatives did even better, gaining 12 seats and appearing to threaten the Scottish National Party hegemony.
The news came after Corbyn had completed a tour of 18 Scottish constituencies where he staged rallies to big crowds, showing his popularity north of the border.
Dugdale supported his opponent Owen Smith in the leadership election last year, as did a majority of Scottish Labour members, saying at the time “I don’t think Jeremy can unite our party and lead us into government.”
However, Corbyn’s support has surged since the general election where the party gained 30 seats and deprived the Conservatives of a majority.
The next Scottish leader will likely be closer to Corbyn’s politics, if not an active supporter.
Neil Frindlay, a Labour MSP who is associated with the leader told the Guardian that he had “no idea at all” that it was going to happen, saying that “It came as a bolt out of the blue to me as well.”
The Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted:
It was clear that Dugdale wanted to leave on her own terms, despite previously saying that she intended to stay on as leader past the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
She 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.”
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