A SHAKE-UP of Labour’s shadow cabinet was overshadowed by a party split as sacked finance spokesman Ken Macintosh admitted he had “disagreements” with leader Johann Lamont.
• Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray appointed finance spokesman for party
• Move comes amid three high profile departures from shadow cabinet
Mr Macintosh – who was defeated by Ms Lamont in a leadership contest in 2011 – said last night he was “disappointed” that she had removed him from her front-bench team.
And Jim Murphy, Labour’s shadow defence secretary at Westminster, whose constituency overlaps Mr Macintosh’s in East Renfrewshire, appeared to criticise the move. He wrote on Twitter about his close ally “being surprisingly dropped”.
Ms Lamont replaced Mr Macintosh with former Labour leader Iain Gray, who returned to the shadow cabinet as three senior MSPs left their roles.
Mr Gray, who quit as leader after Labour’s heavy election
defeat in 2011, will be pitted against SNP finance secretary John Swinney.
Mr Macintosh was one of the high-profile Labour figures to leave the shadow cabinet, with education spokesman Hugh Henry also no longer on the front-bench.
Labour’s infrastructure spokesman Richard Baker has also left, although the MSP will now take on a policy review role for the party.
New appointments are Kezia Dugdale to education, Neil Findlay to health, and former senior police officer Graeme Pearson to justice – all part of the 2011 intake of Labour MSPs.
Jackie Baillie leaves her post as health spokeswoman, but will be the party’s manifesto co-ordinator and remain in the shadow cabinet.
However, Mr Macintosh issued a statement last night that said he had some disagreements with Ms Lamont about the direction of the party under her
“Whatever disagreements we may have on the direction the party is headed, I still have huge admiration for Johann and particularly welcome her new cabinet appointments. I will remain a constructive and loyal back-bencher,” he said.
Ms Lamont insisted that the shake-up would introduce the “right blend of youth and experience” into Labour’s front-bench ahead of the next Holyrood election in 2016.
She said: “We have made a great deal of progress in the last 18 months but we have to keep moving forward.
“I believe this refreshed shadow cabinet team is the right blend of youth and experience which can take forward the job of modernising the Scottish Labour Party, holding the Scottish Government to account and building a new relationship with the people of Scotland and policies which meet their needs.”
However, there was confusion surrounding the departure of the two other shadow cabinet members, with Mr Henry and Mr Baker refusing to say whether they had wanted to remain.
Mr Henry wished good luck to the new team and Mr Baker said he would now focus on his position as a director of the anti-independence Better Together campaign.
Other changes to the front-bench team include Lewis Macdonald being moved from the justice portfolio to the position of chief whip – in charge of party discipline at Holyrood.
Jenny Marra, who served as Mr Macdonald’s deputy, will become a youth employment spokeswoman, a post previously held by Ms Dugdale.
Changing faces on front-bench
IAIN Gray is largely remembered for his three-year stint as Scottish Labour leader and the crushing defeat the party suffered at the hands of the SNP in 2011.
However, Mr Gray is arguably one of Labour’s most accomplished politicians in Scotland, having held ministerial posts, including enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, alongside former first ministers Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell.
He also spent four years as a special adviser to the then secretary of state for Scotland, Alistair Darling.
But the East Lothian MSP also boasts a CV that includes plenty of real-life experience, having spent seven years as a teacher and 12 years with Oxfam.
THE inclusion of Neil Findlay in the shadow cabinet is largely due to his effectiveness as an opposition MSP, who is more than happy to have a political scrap with the SNP.
Mr Findlay has emerged as a real hate figure for the SNP at Holyrood largely because he is one of the few Labour politicians in recent years to actually get the upper hand over the Nationalists in some debates. An unapologetic left winger, Mr Findlay has refused to cross civil service picket lines.
KEZIA Dugdale was marked out a rising star in Labour almost as soon as she arrived in Holyrood as she delivered a speech on child poverty that challenged the SNP’s record on the issue.
Ms Dugdale has emerged as a genuinely issue-driven politician and until recently as a spokeswoman on youth employment.
She is one of the few MSPs in her party who seems to have genuinely rattled the SNP government over its record on unemployment.
Graeme Pearson served in Scotland’s police service for 38 years – a record that marks him out as highly unusual for any politician, particularly one with responsibility for justice issues.
He became a well known figure during his time as director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency – effectively serving as Scotland’s top anti-drug police officer.
Mr Pearson was also an assistant chief constable of Strathclyde Police
After leaving SCDEA, he became head of Glasgow University’s Institute for the Study of Serious Organised Crime.
Analysis: Building a team to match the big hitters
Labour’s front-bench reshuffle is all about attempting to demonstrate that the party is a potential government in waiting.
Party leader Johann Lamont is all too aware that Alex Salmond’s decisive election victory two years ago was in part due to the SNP’s reputation for competence and Labour’s perceived incompetence.
Ms Lamont’s reshuffle is motivated above all by an attempt to assemble a front-bench team to match that of the SNP’s heavyweight line-up that includes figures such as John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell.
Ironically, the key appointee in yesterday’s reshuffle is Iain Gray who two years ago presided over what was arguably the worst Labour election campaign in decades.
However, it’s often forgotten that Mr Gray is a skilled performer at Holyrood and during his time as Labour leader he often landed a few punches on Mr Salmond at First Minister’s Question Time.
Ms Lamont appears to have chosen a team, largely untainted by Labour’s last spell in power, who she believes have a chance of matching the SNP’s big hitters.