Monica Lennon has confirmed her bid to succeed Richard Leonard as the next Scottish Labour leader, joining Anas Sarwar in the race.
The central Scotland MSP and party health spokeswoman is vying to replace Mr Leonard, who announced on Thursday he would step down from the role he has held since 2017.
It triggers a contest after Mr Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s constitution spokesman, announced his intention to run again having lost out to Mr Leonard for leadership last time around.
Ms Lennon said: “Following extensive discussions with party members, I have decided to put my name forward to lead the Scottish Labour Party.
“This is an important time for our country and it is vital that Scottish Labour continues to play a positive and constructive role during the pandemic response.
“The Scottish Parliament election will be a key moment in our democracy, when we decide what a Covid-19 recovery should look like.
“Scottish Labour Party members deserve to have their say about the best way to take forward our vision for a fairer and more equal Scotland.”
Mr Sarwar set out his stall to replace Mr Leonard on Saturday, saying the country “needs political leadership that will bring people together” and that he wants “to rebuild Scottish Labour, and then rebuild Scotland”.
In a column for the Observer online, the Glasgow MSP wrote: “Over the past few years, I have gained a new perspective on our politics and realised that the things we argue about mean little to people’s lives.
“We spend too much time highlighting our differences, rather than focusing on what unites us.
“I firmly believe we cannot go back to society as it was before the pandemic – insecure work, hollowed- out public services, an underfunded health service, and the constant focus on another independence referendum when there’s far more important things we need to be dealing with.
“Scottish Labour can compete again if we offer a positive alternative – a plan to heal our wounds, to reunite our people and to rebuild our country.”
On Saturday, the party’s executive agreed to a condensed timescale for any contest with the Holyrood elections less than four months away.
The last Scottish Labour leadership contest in 2017 – when Mr Leonard defeated Mr Sarwar – took two-and-a-half months.
A deadline of midnight on Sunday was set for candidates to declare their intention to run and they require support from at least four of the party’s MSPs or its sole Scottish MP by midday on the following Tuesday to be formally nominated.
Party members and affiliated supporters will be able to cast their votes from February 9 until ballots close on February 26 with the new leader to be announced the following day.