21st October 2018
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Labour’s Shetland branch shocked as Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale stands down

The decision by Kezia Dugdale to stand down as leader of the Scottish Labour party has come as a surprise to the party’s local branch.

Chairwoman of the Shetland Labour branch, Robina Barton, said news of Ms Dugdale’s decision had saddened her.

“I thought it was quite sad because she was a good leader. But if she was wanting to stand down it’s good she’s doing it now to help us prepare for the next Scottish elections.

“I wish her well for the future, and she is staying in the party, which is great.”

Branch secretary Gordon Thomson said he was confident the party would move forward.

“It was quite a surprise, but I’m sure there will be somebody willing and able to step into her shoes.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I saw it on the news last night.”

News of Ms Dugdale’s decision emerged on Tuesday night, with the Lothians MSP insisting it was time to “pass the baton on” to someone else.

It follows long-standing publicity surrounding an apparent rift between Ms Dugdale and UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was north of the border only last week.

Who Ms Dugdale’s replacement will be is yet to become clear. Mr Thomson suggested interim leader Alex Rowley, an MSP for mid-Scotland and Fife, may be given full leadership.

But he highlighted other possibilities, such as Neil Findlay or Jenny Marra.

Mr Thomson said the party should form stronger alliances with the trade unions in the future.

Ms Dugdale’s resignation letter explains she has reconsidered life following the death of a close friend who had been battling a terminal illness. She thought the time was right to go so the new leader could make their mark before the next Scottish elections.

She wrote: “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.”

Isles MSP Tavish Scott, a Liberal Democrat, paid tribute to Ms Dugdale.

“Kez has led her party at a really tough time for Labour,” he said. “She is self-evidently no fan of Corbyn, so it is hardly surprising that she has said enough is enough.

“Whether she leaves for political or personal reasons is neither here nor there. I wish her every success and happiness in life. She is extremely able and will do great things in whatever field of work she wants to pursue.”

Tory Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie Halcro Johnston, added his support for the former leader. But he added Mr Corbyn and “hard left” members of Scottish Labour had won the day.

“I wish Kezia Dugdale all the very best in whatever path she choses after leadership. She was one of the first MSPs from outside of my party to welcome me to the Scottish Parliament in June, and she has always come across to me as someone who is sincere, dedicated and who is in politics for the right reasons.

“Kezia Dugdale has led the Scottish Labour Party during very difficult times for that party and they will struggle to find a replacement who will be able to bring all sides together as she has, on the whole, done.

“Whether she was forced out or just decided to focus her undoubted talents and energy elsewhere, it’s looks as though Jeremy Corbyn and the Hard Left of Scottish Labour has won. That doesn’t bode well for Labour or for Scottish politics.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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