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Kezia Dugdale quits as Scottish Labour leader

Kezia Dugdale has resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, saying she was stepping down to let someone with “fresh energy, drive and a new mandate” take her place.

The Lothians MSP said she wanted to giver her successor the “space and time” to prepare for the next Scottish Parliament election in 2021. 

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “I thought long and hard about this. I care deeply about the Labour Party, I love it, I devoted my adult life to serving it in a number of different capacities. 

“And I have just come to the conclusion that the best thing for it, the Labour Party, this precious, precious thing that has done so much good in our country, and indeed for me, is to pass that baton on.

“What I’m trying to do is to leave with my head held high and without any kind of crisis. I have been in this leadership role at a very difficult time in my party’s history, very challenging time in Scottish politics, a lot has happened in two and a half years. 

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“But there are four years ahead before the next election. I want to give the next person space and time to do the right thing for the party.” 

Ms Dugdale has previously criticised the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and she backed his rival Owen Smith in last year’s leadership contest.

But she strongly denied suggestions she was leaving to avoid being pushed out by the party’s more left-wing members and Mr Corbyn’s supporters. 

Her resignation is due to take place with immediate effect. 

Ms Dugdale said she took over the leadership when the party was “on its knees” in Scotland. 

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.” 

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She thanked the staff in the Scottish Labour Party’s headquarters, her shadow cabinet and staff in the Scottish Parliament “whose boundless energy, expertise and good humour has guided our party through some dark hours and difficult times,” she said. 

Ms Dugdale added despite the challenges of the leadership, she enjoyed her role and achieved many of her goals. 

She said: “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.”

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, praised Ms Dugdale as a “great leader”. 

In a tweet, he said: “Thank you @kezdugdale. You were a great leader in difficult times. We are all grateful for your selfless service.” 

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