Scottish Labour leader rivals will face off on TV

Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale will clash on BBC Scotland. Pictures: Robert Perry and Toby Williams
Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale will clash on BBC Scotland. Pictures: Robert Perry and Toby Williams
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The two candidates for the Labour leadership in Scotland will face each in other in a live head- to-head TV showdown, it has been confirmed.

Frontrunner Kezia Dugdale will debate with Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh later this month on BBC Scotland.

And last night Mr Macintosh sought to seize the initiative ahead of the 27 July showdown, insisting he had instigated the event, which will allow party members to gain a “proper insight into their policy differences” between the pair.

The contest comes after Labour faced near wipeout in the UK general election in May which saw the party left with just one seat out of 41, while the SNP took 56 out of Scotland’s 59 constituencies.

The result prompted the resignation of Jim Murphy who had only been leader for six months after taking over from Johann Lamont.

The candidates have been taking part in hustings events around Scotland in recent weeks.

Mr Macintosh said last night: “I am pleased Kezia has accepted my challenge for a live, head-to-head debate.

“I want to thank BBC Scotland too for agreeing to host the debate which I believe will give party members the opportunity to see the clear choice before them.

“Scottish Labour members are undecided in this contest. Like me, they recognise that Scotland has changed but are frustrated that our party has not changed to reflect Scotland.

“I am offering Scottish Labour something different. I want to take our party in a new direction: more collaborative, more positive and more forward-looking. I believe we need to change some of our policies and I will bring a new style and approach to our politics.”

Ms Dugdale, who was deputy leader under Mr Murphy, has the backing of the bulk of Labour’s MSPs group at Holyrood, the party’s last remaining MP Ian Murray and most local Labour party groups who have made nominations.

She said: “I’m standing to not just to lead the Scottish Labour Party but to win back the trust of the people of Scotland. This televised debate is a chance to reach beyond our party membership and speak directly to the people who have felt the let-down and who will shape our party’s future – everyday Scots.

“I’m looking forward to listening to their concerns, and making Scottish Labour relevant to their lives again.”

The 33-year-old has said that Labour must adopt a “big tent” approach and reach out beyond its traditional base to win back power.

She has also pledged to end the “charitable status” of private schools.

Polling evidence since the election suggests that Labour’s support is continuing to flatline in Scotland. A TNS survey last week put support for the party at 20 per cent while backing for the Nationalists has soared to about 60 per cent.

The TV debate on 27 July will take place a week after voting opens in the contest to become the new leader. The result will be announced on 15 August.