Aberdeen Labour leader Jenny Laing says Richard Leonard has made the “right decision” to stand down as Scottish Labour leader.
The co-leader of Aberdeen City Council hopes the new leader of the party will “look favourably” on what is being delivered in the city and “do all that they can” to have the nine suspended councillors reinstated as full members of the party.
Mr Leonard has held the post for three years but announced his decision to step down with immediate effect on Thursday afternoon, saying he’d considered his future over the festive period.
The so-called “Aberdeen Nine” were suspended from the Scottish Labour Party after entering a coalition with the Conservatives and Independents following the 2017 council elections.
It had been widely expected the group would be readmitted to the party after Scottish Labour promised to find a resolution, more than three years after the initial suspensions were imposed.
But instead party top brass in London made the call to extend their ban until 2022.
Following Mr Leonard’s resignation, Ms Laing is hopeful a new leader will see that they are reinstated as full members of the party.
She says: “We’ve made our views clear that we’re disappointed that we continue to be suspended from the Labour Party because we feel in the administration in Aberdeen that we are promoting Labour policies that we stood for election on.
“Our manifesto commitments are being delivered and in Aberdeen we’re a great example of what Labour can achieve when they’re in power.
“I think we’re a great advert for what Scottish Labour is all about.
“I would hope any new leader of Scottish Labour will look favourably on what is being delivered in Aberdeen and will do all that they can to have us reinstated as full members of the Labour Party.”
On Mr Leonard’s decision to quit just four months before the Scottish Parliament elections, Ms Laing adds: “He’s made comments himself that Scotland needs a Labour government more than ever.
“I think we need to make sure that as we go into the Holyrood elections that we don’t just have the policies that people will vote for but we also have a leader who people will see as being able to lead the country as first minister.”
Aberdeen Lord Provost Barney Crockett, who is one of the nine suspended councillors, said he is “very pleased” to learn of Mr Leonard’s departure, adding it was “overdue”.
He adds: “I think all of Scotland has needed that change and maybe not least of all Richard Leonard.
“He’s been struggling in the job and it is definitely the right thing that he stands down and I look forward to his deputy taking over.”
On the timing ahead of the Holyrood elections, Mr Crockett says Scottish Labour must produce a “fresh presentation to the people of Scotland”.
Mr Crockett says interim leader Jackie Baillie is a “tremendous communicator”, adding he has a “great appreciation of her talent”.
He also says he hopes the change will see the nine councillors welcomed back into the Labour Party fold.
Splits are already emerging within the party following Thursday’s resignation.
In his resignation statement, Mr Leonard described the “speculation” over his future as leader as a “distraction”.
He says it was “not an easy decision” but after three years he felt it is “the right one for me and for the party”.
Neil Findlay MSP, an ally of Mr Leonard’s, hit out at those he claims have “led a three-year campaign of briefings to journalists, leaks of private conversations and the constant feeding of stories to the media” for “bringing down a decent and honest man”.
He adds: “These flinching cowards and sneering traitors make me sick.”