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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard defies new moves to oust him

Pressure to resign gathers momentum in build-up to Holyrood elections next May

A grassroots campaign demanding the resignation of Labour’s leader in Scotland, as well as an explosive no-confidence vote by its ruling body, are both being drawn up by party insiders attempting to topple him ahead of crucial elections next year.

The last-ditch measures are being considered after a series of resignations and calls for his departure last week failed to remove Richard Leonard. He reiterated his refusal to quit in a defiant statement on Sunday, saying the attempts to topple him “only served to strengthen my own resolve”.

It comes with Labour still languishing in third place in the polls ahead of Holyrood elections next May, with the SNP currently on course to win more than half of all votes. Labour is set to lose several MSPs, while polling has also suggested that Leonard is still largely unknown to many voters. A group of MSPs called on him to go last week.

Anas Sarwar, the former deputy Scottish Labour leader, is seen as the most likely replacement, possibly with fellow MSP Jackie Baillie as an interim leader for May’s election.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Anas Sarwar MSP, tipped for leadership. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Some of those pushing for Leonard’s departure believe the attempt to oust him will fail unless Labour’s MSPs launch a formal leadership challenge against him this week. Others want to foster a grassroots campaign from Labour members and councillors calling for his departure as the next move.

Holding a no-confidence vote in his leadership within Scottish Labour’s ruling executive committee is seen as the last-ditch move. It is also highly unpredictable, as feelings over Leonard’s leadership within the committee are finely balanced. A vote of the executive committee was used to remove Jim Murphy from the job in 2015. Murphy narrowly won the vote, but subsequently resigned anyway. The view of trade unions, which have several seats on the committee, would be crucial.

While some unions have come out in support of Leonard, others – including his own GMB union…

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