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Leonard unveils changes

Sarwar and Baillie axed in Scottish Labour reshuffle

Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar: learned of sacking on Twitter (pic: Terry Murden)


Two of Scottish Labour’s highest profile front benchers have been sacked in a reshuffle announced by leader Richard Leonard.

Anas Sarwar, who was beaten by Mr Leonard in last year’s leadership contest, has been replaced as health spokesperson by Monica Lennon. Jackie Baillie, who backed Mr Sarwar, has lost her position as the party’s economy spokeswoman.

Both are supporters of former leader Kezia Dugdale in a row over the party withdrawing its funding for her defence in a defamation action brought by the Wings Over Scotland website.

Mr Sarwar said he had learned of his dismissal through Twitter during a health debate in the Holyrood chamber. The pair have been past critics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Scottish Labour’s communications chief, Charlie Mann, also quit on Thursday after just five months in the job, saying he had “decided the role is not for me”.

Alex Rowley, who stood down as deputy leader in controversial circumstances, is back in the top team.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who takes over the economy brief, said: “I thank the outgoing Shadow Cabinet for their contribution. 

“The refreshed shadow cabinet will take Scottish Labour into the central debate in Scottish politics: the clear choice between Labour’s plan to invest and build an economy that works for the many, not the few, or further austerity with the SNP and the Tories. 

Jackie Baillie

Jackie Baillie: supporter of Kezia Dugdale (pic: Terry Murden)

“The publication of the SNP’s Growth Commission – which is in fact a cuts commission committing the SNP to ten years of austerity – has changed the terrain of politics in Scotland: there is now an even more glaring need for a party that stands for investment, not cuts.

“I have decided to refresh Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet’s focus so that we are ready to meet the challenge of that new terrain of investment versus cuts, and to focus on unity and the public, not ourselves and internal battles. 

“My new shadow cabinet is a blend of skills and experience whose aim is to turn around Scottish Labour’s electoral successes.

“Our task is more pressing than ever. The Tories have implanted a savage austerity agenda and their handling of Brexit is a shambles.  

“Labour support is recovering in Scotland – we have increased our support from where we were just a couple of years ago. But we understand much more needs to be done; we have to do better in convincing people of our message. 

Richard Leonard

Richard Leonard was elected leader last year (pic: Terry Murden)


“So change does not stop at the shadow cabinet. I have today asked Lesley Laird to carry out a review, reporting to me, of Scottish Labour’s organisation and operations to ensure that we are fully battle-ready for 2021. I want to thank our staff who work so hard and I know that the outcome of this review will help them and everyone in Scottish Labour deliver our shared objectives. 

“Today I am also announcing that I will appoint a small working group in the coming week to ensure that we draw on a wider and more representative group of candidates for 2021, so that Scottish Labour is better connected to the communities we seek to represent. 

“Finally, I welcome Dave Watson – formerly head of policy and public affairs of Unison Scotland – who is joining us this week as a policy development officer, working closely with our existing policy team to add his huge depth of policy experience to our manifesto development for 2021. 

“I was elected leader 11 months ago on a platform of real change not only for Scotland but also for Scottish Labour.  By working together we will take Labour forward. It will give us the best possible chance to win again in Scotland, not for our own sake but for the sake of all those people in all of those communities who need a Scottish Labour Government.”

The new Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet is as follows: 

Richard Leonard, Leader, also leading on the economy brief 

Lesley Laird, Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Claire Baker, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Claudia Beamish, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Neil Findlay, Business Manager, Party Liaison, Constitutional Relations

Rhoda Grant, Shadow Cabinet secretary for Rural Economy

Iain Gray, Shadow Cabinet secretary for Education and Skills

Daniel Johnson, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice

James Kelly, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance

Monica Lennon, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Pauline McNeil, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Equalities, Housing and Social Security

Elaine Smith, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality

Colin Smyth, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport

Alex Rowley, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government

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