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‘Sneering traitors’: MSPs on Richard Leonard’s resignation

Richard Leonard MSPs
Richard Leonard has stepped down as Scottish Labour leader.

Splits are already emerging following the resignation of Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

The Central Scotland MSP has held the post for three years but has decided to step down with immediate effect, having considered his future over the festive period.

Amid grim polling projections ahead of the May election, Mr Leonard had been under pressure to resign from senior figures in the party.

Mr Leonard says he had considered what the “speculation” about his leadership does to the party’s ability to get its message across, describing it as a “distraction”.

The party’s Procedures Committee has formed to oversee the election of a new leader and will hold its first meeting on Friday.

The Scottish Executive Committee will meet in the “coming days” to agree a timetable for electing Mr Leonard’s successor.

Neil Findlay MSP.

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.”

‘Labour to his core’

Anas Sarwar says the former Scottish Labour leader has led the party through “one of the most difficult times in our history”.

The MSP, who was defeated by Mr Leonard in the leadership race in 2017, adds: “He is Labour to his core, and we are all grateful for his service.

“I know he will continue to fight for a fairer, more just and more equal society today, tomorrow and long into the future.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also responded to Mr Leonard’s decision to quit, saying that “despite our political differences, I’ve always liked Richard Leonard”.

She adds: “He is a decent guy and I wish him well for the future.”

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson, who stepped down as party leader in August 2019, describes political resignations as “like reading obituaries when you are still alive”.

She adds: “Whatever else is written about Richard, I have to say, I always found him a thoroughly decent man and a committed campaigner.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross claims that while they “disagreed on many things in politics”, the former Scottish Labour leader was “passionate about the causes he championed”.

Another politician to stress Mr Leonard’s decency is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who says the former party leader “cares deeply about his politics and his party” and there is “no better evidence of that than his decision to step down from the top job”.

Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie outside Marischal College in Aberdeen.

Interim leader Jackie Baillie thanked Richard Leonard for his service to the party and his “genuine commitment to the values we all hold dear”.

She describes the party as facing the “fight of our lives” in the run-up to the Holyrood elections.

“But as we fight for every vote and seat, we will come together to hold the SNP  and Tories to account for their record of failure”, she adds.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer tweeted: “He might have been completely unsuited to the job, or maybe it’s just an impossible one.

“Either way, Richard Leonard is a decent man and in politics for all the right reasons.

“Labour just isn’t the vehicle for the kind of economic and social transformation Scotland desperately needs and which I think Richard sincerely wants.”

‘Thankfully it is now time to turn the page’

Brian Roy, former Scottish Labour General Secretary, brands the move the “right decision”, saying Mr Leonard has led Scottish Labour to the “lowest point in its history”.

He tweeted: “His time as leader has been mired by bad decisions and poor performance.

“His leadership has hollowed out the party organisation and driven talented people out.

“Thankfully it is now time to turn the page.”

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