EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The leader of Scottish Labour said she had resigned “on her own terms” in a move that will most likely cement leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn’s hold on a party which is struggling to regain traction in Scotland.
Kezia Dugdale, who led for two years when Labour saw its support plummet following a Scottish independence referendum, told the BBC late on Tuesday she was leaving the role to hand over to someone with “fresh energy”.
She denied she was being pushed out, saying: “I‘m going on my own terms.”
A critic of Corbyn, Dugdale is stepping down at a time when the Labour leader’s popularity is rising and even more centrist Scottish Labour lawmakers such as Anas Sarwar have praised him for being “a different kind of leader” who seeks to unite.
Local media suggest Sarwar could be a candidate to take over from Dugdale.
Labour National Executive Committee member Rhia Wolfson told the BBC the party needed a figure who could build support across Britain as whole.
“The national picture is what is key for Scottish Labour here and ... in terms of what we need in the next (Scottish) leadership (that) is someone who is going to build on that national picture vision,” she said.
Labour has struggled to tackle the pro-independence Scottish National Party, as well as a resurgent Scottish Conservative Party which is winning some unionists - those who want to remain in the United Kingdom - under leader Ruth Davidson.
A new leader will also need a clear voice on Brexit, particularly since Scotland, one of the UK’s four nations, voted to stay in the European Union along with Northern Ireland. Wales and England voted to leave.
Corbyn has been credited with boosting Labour’s popularity in Scotland at a June national election with promises of renationalizing services such as the railways and ending economic austerity policies.
Labour now has seven of Scotland’s 59 seats having fallen to just one seat in the 2015 election. Its position is still weak for a party that for decades dominated Scottish politics and had 41 seats in 2005.
Winning Scottish seats in the past gave Labour a springboard for a majority in Britain’s 650-seat national parliament in London.
Labour’s other big challenge will be to clarify what it will offer Scotland on the independence question after Scots rejected independence by a 10 point margin in 2014.
Corbyn clashed with Dugdale earlier this year when he said he would “open discussions” over a second Scottish independence referendum. The party’s official stance in Scotland was to “firmly oppose” a second referendum.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Richard Balmforth