New Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale asks voters to take fresh look at party


Kezia Dugdale has been elected as the new leader of Scottish Labour, asking voters across the country to "take a fresh look" at the party.

Ms Dugdale beat Holyrood veteran Ken Macintosh in a leadership election sparked by the resignation of former MP Jim Murphy shortly after Labour's near wipeout in Scotland in the general election.

She pledged to work "day and night" to rebuild the party ahead of the Scottish elections next year, with polling for that ballot putting the SNP on course to win another majority at Holyrood.

Ms Dugdale won 72.1% of the vote, while Mr Macintosh was backed by 27.9%.

Labour's new deputy leader was also announced at the event in Stirling, with Alex Rowley beating fellow MSP Richard Baker and Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson.

Around 21,000 party members and supporters were eligible to vote in the contest, which was held on a one-person one-vote basis following reforms introduced by Mr Murphy.

Speaking after her election, Ms Dugdale said she had a message for voters across Scotland.

"Take another look at the Scottish Labour Party," she said.

"I am not so presumptuous as to ask instantly for your vote, but in the recent election 700,000 of you stuck with us, but many of you chose someone else," Ms Dugdale said.

"All I ask is that you take a fresh look at the Scottish Labour Party under my leadership.

"We are changing. I am part of the new generation, someone without the baggage of the past."

She added: "I want to transform this country, to shake it up profoundly, so that the life chances of a child born today aren't determined by how much their parents earn, but by their potential, by their work ethic, and by their ambition."

Ms Dugdale said she would be making an announcement on her shadow cabinet appointments next week, and she will also seek new people to stand as Labour candidates in the 2016 Holyrood elections.

"I am asking them to look at the party, to join the party, and if they want to stand next year they can do that, because I recognise that the biggest problem we face as the Labour movement is that there are not enough people in it," she said.

She said she has a plan to take the party forward, with a "big focus" on education and tackling inequality.

Mr Rowley called for "full employment" to be the party's number one priority. He said new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament should be used to help achieve this.

"And yes, if we need more powers, then the Labour Party in Scotland should be in a position to take those powers to tackle poverty, tackle inequality, create fairness and create a better and more just Scotland," he added.

Ms Dugdale said she already had the "beginnings of a plan" to use the raft of new powers being devolved in new Scotland Act.

Harriet Harman, interim leader of the Labour Party, said the new leadership team face "the historic task of rebuilding our Party in Scotland, reconnecting Labour with the people of Scotland and re-energising the links between our party in Scotland, Wales and England".

UK Labour leadership favourite Jeremy Corbyn MP said the pair were "well equipped" for the task.

Ms Dugdale was accused this week of backtracking on her view of Mr Corbyn's own leadership bid, stating that their politics were not "wildly different" and claiming she was "excited" by his campaign.

She had previously stated that if he is successful then Labour would be left "carping on the sidelines".

Mr Corbyn said: "If I am successful in becoming the leader of the Labour Party at a UK level, I look forward to working closely with Kezia, and the rest of Scottish Labour, as we seek to reconnect everywhere for a better kind of politics."

"I would be delighted to work with any of the four of the UK leadership candidates," Ms Dugdale said.

But she emphasised that she would lead an autonomous Scottish party.

"We can make our own decisions here in Scotland in terms of our policy positions and what we say and do about the future," she said.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said: "A change of leader alone will not solve the deep, deep problems which the Labour Party in Scotland now faces."