Richard Leonard has confirmed that he is standing down as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, a position which he has held since 2017. Until an election is held to find his replacement, the deputy leader Jackie Baillie will be the party’s acting leader. Leonard said that questions about leadership had “become a distraction” given the Holyrood elections that will take place in May 2021.
Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Labour Party, said in a statement:
“Richard has led Scottish Labour through one of the most challenging and difficult periods in our country’s history, including a general election and the pandemic. Even from opposition he has achieved a considerable amount for which he should be very proud. This includes securing a commitment for the creation of a national care service, securing action on a Jobs Guarantee Scheme to deal with youth unemployment, securing a human-rights based public inquiry into the treatment of care home residents during the COVID pandemic and securing support for a Fair Rents Bill to give new rights to tenants.”
Leonard said in a statement:
“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.”