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Kezia Dugdale quits as Scottish Labour leader

Kezia Dugdale has quit as the leader of the Scottish Labour party saying it is time to ‘pass the baton’ to someone else.

The 36-year-old politician -who recently revealed she is dating SNP parliamentarian Jenny Gilruth – had faced heavy criticism from the left wing of her own party after attacking UK leader Jeremy Corbyn.

She fell foul of his supporters after giving her backing to leadership challenger Owen Smith in last summer’s contest – accusing the firebrand socialist of speaking ‘only to the converted’.

A senior source is said to have revealed today to Buzzfeed that Ms Dugdale was ‘hounded out by JC’s mob’.

Scottish Labour suffered major losses in last year’s Scottish Parliament election with 13 of its seats going to other parties.

It slipped to an embarrassing third place in the polls leading Ms Dugdale to admit that she had seen first-hand what happens to a party that ‘repeatedly refuses to listen to the message the electorate is saying’.

Ms Dugdale, pictured right, last month revealed she is in a relationship with SNP politician Jenny Gilruth, pictured left

The politician, pictured right, had faced heavy criticism from the left wing of her own party after attacking UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured left

The politician, pictured right, had faced heavy criticism from the left wing of her own party after attacking UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured left

But resigning today she insisted that she had left the party in a better state than she had found it when she took over as leader in August 2015.

Ms Dugdale said she wanted to give the ‘space and time’ to prepare for the next Scottish Parliament election in 2021.

The death of her close friend Gordon Aikman – a Motor Neurone Disease campaigner – had also led her rethink her priorities, she said.

In a statement she said: ‘As chair of the party, I am writing to you today to resign as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

‘It has been an honour and a privilege to have served this party in a leadership position for the last two and a half years, covering four national elections and one referendum. 

Ms Dugdale, pictured left, also said the death of her close friend Gordon Aikman, pictured right - a Motor Neurone Disease campaigner - had  led her rethink her priorities

Ms Dugdale, pictured left, also said the death of her close friend Gordon Aikman, pictured right – a Motor Neurone Disease campaigner – had led her rethink her priorities

‘I have worked with many great people, not least the staff in our HQ led by Brian Roy and those in the Scottish Parliament, whose boundless energy, expertise and good humour has guided our party through some dark hours and difficult times.

‘I’d like to thank my shadow cabinet for their efforts, and in particular Iain Gray for his unflinching love and support and James Kelly for the thankless but crucial job he does so well as our business manager.

‘Earlier this year I lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live. His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference. He taught me how precious and short life was and never to waste a moment.

‘Being leader has always been a difficult but fulfilling challenge. One that until now I have enjoyed, driven by a clear guiding purpose and goals, many of which I have achieved.’ 

It comes just days before the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh is due to begin a new session.

Last month it was revealed that Ms Dugdale was in a relationship with an SNP parliamentarian.

She has now been dating Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP Jenny Gilruth for about five months after the pair first met on a cross-party politics trip to the USA last summer.

Ms Dugdale split from her fiancée Louise Riddell in December following a nine-year relationship.

Ms Gilruth, 32, worked as a teacher before being elected to the Scottish Parliament in May last year.

Following Ms Dugdale’s resignation, Corbyn posted on his Facebook page: ‘I’d like to thank Kezia Dugdale for her work as Scottish Labour leader and the important role she has played in rebuilding the party in Scotland.

‘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.

‘I want to thank Kez for her tireless service to our party and movement, and look forward to campaigning with her in future for a country that works for the many not the few.’

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: ‘Leadership can be tough and @kezdugdale deserves the thanks of her party for putting in the hard yards. I wish her well.’

Ms Dugdale’s partner Jenny Gilruth added jokingly: ‘PS are you now free to wash the dishes?’

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s resignation letter in full 

Dear Linda,

As Chair of the party, I am writing to you today to resign as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.It has been an honour and a privilege to have served this party in a leadership position for the last two and a half years, covering four national elections and one referendum.

I have worked with many great people, not least the staff in our HQ led by Brian Roy and those in the Scottish Parliament, whose boundless energy, expertise and good humour has guided our party through some dark hours and difficult times.

Kezia Dugdale, pictured, has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour party

Kezia Dugdale, pictured, has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour party

I’d like to thank my shadow cabinet for their efforts, and in particular Iain Gray for his unflinching love and support and James Kelly for the thankless but crucial job he does so well as our Business Manager.Earlier this year I lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live. His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference. He taught me how precious and short life was and never to waste a moment.

Being leader has always been a difficult but fulfilling challenge. One that until now I have enjoyed, driven by a clear guiding purpose and goals, many of which I have achieved.

I am proud of the fact that I’ve demonstrated how the parliament’s powers can be used to stop austerity with progressive taxes and the creation of new benefits. Proud to have advanced the call for federalism across the UK. Proud to have delivered real autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party and a guaranteed voice for Scotland and Wales on the NEC.

Educational inequality is the number one issue in Scottish politics after the constitution because Scottish Labour under my leadership put it there.

I am proud to have delivered 50/50 slates of amazing and diverse candidates in both the Scottish and U.K. Elections and equally proud to have invested in the next generation of labour activists and parliamentarians with leadership programmes. These have already furnished us with two of our magnificent seven MPs. With that re-established Scottish Labour group at Westminster, and a talented and effective group in Holyrood, Scottish Labour has a bright future.

A marker of success for me was to leave as leader with the party in better shape than I found it and I have done that.

Emerging from the challenging times following the 2014 referendum, and the 2015 UK election, we now have a solid platform on which to build towards success, and government.

I have given the task of achieving this all that I have. But with nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.

I will continue as a Labour MSP for the Lothians and am already looking forward to spending more time with constituents and on constituency issues.

Too often our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way. There will be no press conference and no off the record briefing in my name. I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.

I remain in awe of all those party activists who devote their time to this movement without pay or reward. I thank them for their belief in me.

Yours in solidarity,

Kez Dugdale

 

 

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