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Scottish Labour leadership: Who is in the running to succeed Kezia Dugdale?

Scottish Labour leadership: Who is in the running to succeed Kezia Dugdale?
2 min read

Kezia Dugdale stunned politics last night when she announced she was standing down as Scottish Labour leader. Here, Holyrood magazine's Liam Kirkaldy looks at who could replace her in the top job.


Anas Sarwar, the son of Labour heavyweight and former Glasgow MP Mohammad Sarwar, has long been tipped for the Labour leadership. Sarwar served as deputy leader of Scottish Labour while sitting in Westminster from 2010-15 as well as becoming shadow minister for international development for a year in 2014. He was also interim leader for a couple of months after Johann Lamont resigned as leader in 2014.

Sarwar is considered to be a savvy political operator, with the Scottish Labour health spokesperson currently the bookies’ favourite to win the contest. But, given he is viewed as closer to the Blairite end of the Labour spectrum than the rest of his rivals, Corbyn’s relative success as leader of the UK party could hinder the ambitious MSP’s ambitions for the top job.



A former GMB political officer in Scotland and head of economics for the STUC, the Scottish Labour shadow economy minister has a long history of left-wing activism north of the border, even if he only made the jump into party politics in 2011, when he contested the Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley constituency for the Scottish Parliament.

But Leonard has worked within the Scottish Labour party for decades, having served as party chair from 2002-2003, and been a member of the executive committee since 1997. And while bookies point to Anas Sarwar as the favourite, with Neil Findlay having ruled himself out and Leonard sitting closer to the groups that pushed Corbyn’s 2017 surge in England, the relatively unknown MSP could well win the contest – if he decides to stand.



The shadow education minister won the Edinburgh South in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election – the only seat held by the party during its disastrous showing in the 2015 general election. Explaining how he managed to win the seat, amid another disastrous campaign for Labour in 2016, the former parliamentary assistant to Nigel Griffiths said: “If there is one lesson my victory offers, it is Labour needs to be a little bit smarter in tying its message to different people. We very carefully considered how to pitch the national Labour message.”

Like Lennon, Johnson looks a less likely bet than Leonard or Sarwar. He backed Owen Smith in the UK contest and whether his close relationship with Dugdale would help or hinder a leadership bid is debatable.

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Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Former MP Natalie McGarry jailed for 18 months for embezzlement


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