Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has resigned with immediate effect – insisting her decision is best for her and best for the party.
She said 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.
With four years to go until the next Holyrood elections, Ms Dugdale said: “I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.”
Jeremy Corbyn, who she campaigned against in the 2016 party leadership contest, paid tribute to her for taking on the job of Scottish leader at “one of the most difficult times” in Labour’s history north of the border.
Labour managed to win back some of the seats it had lost to Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP in the June 2017 snap general election, with the party now having seven MPs from Scotland.
Ms Dugdale becomes the third Scottish Labour leader to have resigned since the 2014 independence referendum, after Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy, while Anas Sarwar and Iain Gray have also served as acting leader since the vote on Scotland’s future.
Ms Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, wished Ms Dugdale well for the future, writing on Twitter: “We may be opponents, but @kezdugdale led her party with guts and determination and I admired her for that.”
In her resignation letter to Scottish Labour Party chairwoman Linda Stewart, Ms Dugdale insisted she was leaving the party “in better shape than I found it”.
She added: “Emerging from the challenging times following the 2014 referendum, and the 2015 UK election, we now have a solid platform on which to build towards success, and government.”
In her time as leader there was speculation of a leadership challenge from the left, but Ms Dugdale denied she was quitting before she was pushed.
She stated: “Too often our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way. There will be no press conference and no off the record briefing in my name.
“I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.”
Ms Dugdale will continue as an MSP for the Lothian region, with deputy leader Alex Rowley set to take charge of the party in Scotland until her successor is found.
Her resignation came the day after her 36th birthday, with Ms Dugdale saying being leader had been “a difficult but fulfilling challenge”.
Referring to the death of Labour activist and motor neurone disease campaigner Gordon Aikman earlier this year, Ms Dugdale said she had “lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live”.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband thanked Ms Dugdale for her work, and said she gave her “heart and soul to leading Scottish Labour”.
He tweeted: “Thank You. You deserve to get your life back. Enjoy.”