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Left-wing MSPs rule out Scottish Labour leadership bid after Kezia Dugdale quits

Alex Rowley and Neil Findlay have declared they will not put themselves forward for the position.

Two leading left-wing MSPs have ruled themselves out of the race to succeed Kezia Dugdale as the new leader of Scottish Labour.

Both Alex Rowley, who was Ms Dugdale’s deputy and is now interim Scottish Labour leader, and former leadership challenger Neil Findlay declared they would not put themselves forward for the position.

Richard Leonard, a former GMB trade union organiser who was elected to Holyrood in 2016, and Anas Sarwar, Labour’s Scottish health spokesman, are now thought to be the most likely candidates to take on the job.

It comes after Ms Dugdale’s shock resignation on Tuesday evening when she announced she was stepping down with immediate effect, saying her party needed “a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate” to take it into the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

Despite her differences with Jeremy Corbyn – against whom she campaigned in the 2016 Labour leadership contest – Ms Dugdale denied suggestions she had quit before being pushed by the left wing.

She insisted she left the party “in better shape than I found it” after taking on the job in the wake of the 2015 general election, which saw Labour lose all but one of its MPs in Scotland while the SNP enjoyed a landslide victory.

Ms Dugdale, 36, is the third Scottish Labour leader to have resigned since the 2014 independence referendum, with predecessors Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy both having stood down.

Mr Sarwar and Iain Gray have also served as acting leader since the vote on Scotland’s future.

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(Andrew Milligan/PA)

She said the death earlier in 2017 of her “dear friend” Gordon Aikman, a Labour activist and motor neurone disease campaigner, had “taught me a lot about how to live”.

Ms Dugdale stated: “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.”

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