Scottish Labour reshuffle ahead of elections

5 October 2018, 06:21 | Updated: 5 October 2018, 06:25

Scottish labour leadership contest

Two senior Scottish Labour MSPs have been sacked from the party's shadow cabinet.

Anas Sarwar said he found out he had been been removed from his health post through Twitter while taking part in a parliamentary debate on Thursday afternoon.

Economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie also lost her position in a reshuffle announced by party leader Richard Leonard.

MP Ian Murray hit out at the decision, describing it as a "devastating loss to Scottish Labour front bench".

Mr Sarwar, who ran against Mr Leonard in a leadership contest last year, said he was "deeply disappointed".

"It's a shame that I came to know about this decision through Twitter, while I was leading for Labour in a health debate in the Holyrood chamber," Mr Sarwar said.

"I am incredibly proud of the work I did on behalf of NHS patients and staff, particularly the creation of a workforce commission, the campaign to end the pay cap, and the fight to protect local services from SNP cuts.

"For the sake of all the people who need a Labour Government, I wish Richard Leonard and his shadow cabinet all the very best for the future.

"I will continue to serve my constituents tirelessly from the backbenches, campaigning for issues close to my heart including the battle against racism, prejudice and hatred."

Monica Lennon is taking on the health post for the party while Mr Leonard is to combine his leadership with the economy brief.

Ms Baillie said: "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and will continue to be a strong advocate for my constituents - and Labour values. I wish Richard Leonard well for the future."

Mr Leonard said Scottish Labour had to focus on "unity and the public, not ourselves and internal battles".

"I thank the outgoing shadow cabinet for their contribution," Mr Leonard said.

"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.

"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."

Mr Leonard also said he is creating a working group to attract "a wider and more representative group of candidates" for the next Scottish Parliament elections.

Earlier on Thursday, the party confirmed its head of communications had resigned.

Charlie Mann said: "Having joined the Scottish Labour Party as head of communications, after a career spent working in public relations and broadcasting, I have decided the role is not for me.

"I will be looking to return to my previous role and would like to thank the Labour Party for having given me the opportunity."