Sarwar and Lennon win nominations needed in Scottish leadership race

Sienna Rodgers
© Twitter/@jeremycorbyn

Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon, the only candidates to have put themselves forward in the Scottish Labour leadership race, have both won the nominations required to secure their places on the ballot.

The nominations deadline was at noon today, after the process kicked off on Monday. The Scottish Labour hustings period is now open and supporting nominations by affiliated and local parties are also now open.

Early frontrunner Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow, gained the support of 16 MSPs and the only Labour MP in Scotland, Ian Murray who also serves as Shadow Scotland Secretary in Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet.

The 16 MSPs were himself, Claire Baker, Neil Bibby, Mary Fee, Iain Gray, Mark Griffin, Daniel Johnson, James Kelly, Lewis Macdonald, Jenny Marra, Pauline McNeill, Colin Smyth, David Stewart, Sarah Boyack, Claudia Beamish and Johann Lamont.

He was also endorsed by more than a quarter of Labour councillors in Scotland, who signed a letter saying the candidate has “the positive ambition for an alternative vision”, and party-affiliated trade union Usdaw.

Lennon, MSP for Central Scotland, was nominated by five MSPs: herself, Neil Findlay, Rhoda Grant, Alex Rowley and Elaine Smith. Leadership candidates needed to be backed by at least four of the party’s 24 Scottish parliamentarians.

Known for her campaign on period poverty, Lennon is thought to be popular with the wider membership. She has said that Scottish Labour is still treated as a “branch office” by the UK party and supports a split between the two.

The Central Scotland MSP also broke the whip in 2019 to abstain on the SNP bill in favour of a second Scottish independence referendum. She does not back independence but says she is “in favour of democracy”.

Sarwar confirmed his intention to run in The Observer, where he wrote that he would focus on “what unites us” and said he is “determined to bring our movement together so that we can rebuild our party”.

Commenting on the nominations, he said: “The hard graft starts here. In this last year, we have come together as a country like never before. And yet soon, our opponents will want to take us back to the divisive politics of old.

“We can’t go back to fighting between ourselves. I will be setting out a plan to bring our movement together and a plan to rebuild Scotland. Together, we have to rebuild our economy, tackle poverty, fight the climate crisis, and restore our NHS.”

The speedy timetable agreed by Labour’s Scottish executive committee will see a new leader chosen by the end of February, with the result being announced on the 27th after less than three weeks of voting.

Richard Leonard resigned as leader with immediate effect on Thursday, just months before Holyrood elections are set to take place. He said the decision was “in the best interests of the party”.

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