Scotland politics

Kezia Dugdale: Former Scottish Labour leader to quit Holyrood

Kezia Dugdale Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kezia Dugdale's new role is based at the University of Glasgow

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is to leave the Scottish Parliament to take up a post with a political think tank.

She has been appointed as director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service, based at the University of Glasgow.

Ms Dugdale will step down as an MSP for the Lothian region at Holyrood in July.

She said her new role would be "an incredibly exciting new opportunity" to contribute to public life.

Kezia Dugdale resigned as leader of her party in Scotland in 2017, saying it was time to "pass on the baton" to someone else.

She had previously criticised UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and faced criticism from left-wing members of her own party as a result.

Ms Dugdale replaced Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader in August 2015, after the party lost all but one of its Westminster seats in Scotland to the SNP.

Under her leadership, Labour finished third behind the SNP and Scottish Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament election - but went on to win seven seats in the snap general election in June 2017.

The John Smith Centre is named after the UK Labour leader who died suddenly in May 1994.

Image caption John Smith was Labour's UK leader from 1992 to 1994

Speaking of her new role, Ms Dugdale said: "I have devoted my working life to public service, and this is an incredibly exciting new opportunity for me to lead the work of the John Smith Centre.

"Throughout my career I have taken on tough and challenging tasks, and my next task is to help rebuild faith in our politics.

"Disruptive events and the rise of populism has led to increasingly polarised and emotional politics where rational, evidence-based thinking has lost its standing.

She added: "Faith in public service, politics and the political process has to be restored and that progress must be sustainable."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Dugdale became Scottish Labour leader in 2015

The centre's chairperson, Catherine Smith - who is John Smith's daughter - said the director's post had attracted many talented potential candidates.

"We are absolutely delighted that someone of Kezia's calibre will be joining us as the first full time Director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service after a rigorous and open recruitment process which attracted a strong international field," she said.

"We are very much looking forward to working with her as she leads our strategic, research and outreach activities and takes the Centre to the next stage of its development."

International role

Principal of the University of Glasgow, Prof Sir Anton Muscatelli, added: "I am extremely pleased to welcome Kezia Dugdale to the University of Glasgow as Director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service.

"Her background as one of Scotland's most prominent and respected politicians will be invaluable in making a success of this important new position and bring tremendous insights in her academic work with our students, both undergraduate and postgraduate."

The John Smith Centre is a think tank which has a role described as "exploring contemporary attitudes, feelings and future intentions with regard to public service, citizenship and engagement".

Ms Dugdale's role will include teaching students at Glasgow University and representing the John Smith Centre on the international stage, as well as "transforming it into one of the UK's leading think-tanks".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kezia Dugdale's successor said her departure would be a loss to Labour

Her successor as Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "Kezia will be a loss to the Scottish Labour Party but I am sure she will still play a valuable role in public life going forward.

"Kezia stepped forward at a difficult time for the Scottish Labour Party and on many issues - from arguing to use the tax and social security powers of Holyrood to making the case for federalism, she helped the party rebuild after the devastating losses of the 2015 General Election."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "I wish Kezia Dugdale the very best for the future.

"As political opponents, she and I have had our fair share of clashes over the years, but I think she is a big loss to Scottish Labour and to the Scottish Parliament. I hope she enjoys her new challenge."

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