4 must-know facts about the Scottish Labour leadership contest

Public Entrance Scottish Parliament

This time next week, Scottish Labour will have a new leader. Here’s what you need to know about the contest.

1. The context

During Scotland’s short period of devolution, Scottish Labour has had more than its fair share of leaders. The new leader will be the party’s ninth in twenty years. The current contest happening is a result of Kezia Dugdale’s resignation from the post back in August.

2. Richard Leonard

There are two candidates battling it out to replace Dugdale. Richard Leonard was first elected only in 2016, and has a strong trade union background, having worked for the GMB. He is widely regarded as being on the left of the party, and is viewed as the clear Corbynite candidate.

His election manifesto, part of which was published on Labour list last month, includes a ten-point plan to build a progressive Scotland. The points include a push for “public ownership and [an] end the privatisation drive.” He also promises to “lead an industrial strategy for Scotland, pursuing a policy of full-employment, heralding a renaissance in manufacturing, using automation to improve work not undermine workers, as part of a planned approach to economic development.”

3. Anas Sarwar

Leonard’s only opponent in the race to succeed Dugdale is Anas Sarwar.

Before winning a list seat at Holyrood in 2016, he was a dentist and then an MP at Westminster. His electoral history, including his time served as acting leader makes him an experienced politician. According to the Guardian, has has been criticised for allegedly having Blairite credentials, something he has denied. Sarwar has positioned himself as a strong candidate of the left, calling for a radical change to Scotland’s income tax system.

Whether the winner is Leonard or Sarwar, Corbyn's flavour of Labour will have won the day in Scotland.

4. What do the bookies say?

The current favourite to become Scotland’s newest Labour leader is Richard Leonard, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 1/6 for him to replace Kezia Dugdale. The firm offers odds of 7/2 for Sarwar to take over.

Whoever wins will have a mountain to climb. Last year’s Scottish parliamentary election saw the electorate boot Scottish Labour from second to third place, and the Scottish Conservatives rise from third to second position. The new Scottish Labour leader will want to form the next Scottish government, but to do so they will have to beat both the Conservatives and the SNP. Such a task looks incredibly unlikely, but if politics has taught us anything in the last few years, it’s that nothing should ever be ruled out.

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