Ex-MSP James Kelly appointed as new Scottish Labour general secretary

Sienna Rodgers

James Kelly, who served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) from 2007 until the 2021 election, has been named today as the new general secretary of Scottish Labour.

The freshly appointed top party party official, who had been MSP for Rutherglen from 2007 to 2016 and for the Glasgow region between 2016 and 2021, said: “I am honoured to be appointed Scottish Labour’s new general secretary.

“We are building the alternative to years of failed government by the SNP, and I look forward to working with Anas, our party’s staff, our parliamentarians, councillors, members and affiliates to help build a stronger and fairer Scotland.”

Announcing the appointment of Kelly today, Anas Sarwar said: “James is a fantastic campaigner and I’m delighted he is bringing his years of political experience to this vital role.

“As we build towards council elections next year, that background will be vital in helping out dedicated and tireless staff and candidates build winning campaigns across Scotland.”

Kelly held a number of posts across Holyrood and Scottish Labour, including as the spokesperson for finance and justice, the Scottish Labour Party’s parliamentary business manager at Holyrood and the chair of various election campaigns.

The Glasgow politician was demoted in September 2019 when Richard Leonard moved him from economy spokesman to justice. A year later, Kelly resigned from the role and called for Leonard’s resignation as leader.

The general secretary post in Scotland has not had a permanent holder since Michael Sharpe quit the role in December 2020, saying: “I cannot give my young family and the party I love the commitment that they each deserve”.

GMB official and former MSP Drew Smith was appointed as Scottish Labour’s acting general secretary. He is staying with the party “in an expanded strategic and political role working closely with both the UK and Scottish leadership”.

The Scottish Labour leader today added: “I also want to thank Drew Smith for his tireless work on getting Labour back on the pitch and am delighted that he is staying on to help shape the party’s strategy going forward.

“Scottish Labour is focussed on doing just one thing – building the alternative to the SNP and the Tories that Scotland deserves. We will work tirelessly to achieve that, and it will if you agree with me that Scotland deserves better, I hope you will join me on that journey.”

Sarwar also recently appointed Kate Watson to serve as his chief of staff to support Scottish Labour’s work in the Scottish parliament. She was campaign manager for Scottish Labour’s Holyrood election in May earlier this year.

Watson was director of operations for the ‘Better Together’ campaign in the 2014 independence referendum, and was Labour’s unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for Glasgow East in the 2017 and 2019 general elections.

The Scottish Labour leader announced this weekend that his party will not be supporting the SNP government’s proposal to introduce domestic Covid vaccine passports as a condition of entry for nightlife and other venues.

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