CANDIDATES for the post of leader of the Scottish Labour party have been invited to declare their interest from today.
The search for a new chief comes after Johann Lamont MSP resigned as party chief on Friday, launching an attack on senior colleagues at Westminster who she accused of treating Scotland as a “branch office”.
The party will announce its new leader on December 13.
Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee met yesterday and agreed a timetable for the election process.
The party’s interim leader Anas Sarwar MP said: “What was clear from the meeting was a real determination to make sure our focus over the coming weeks and months was to expose the failings of both the Tory and SNP Governments and to work with whoever the new leader is to deliver a Labour Government at next year’s general election.
“This cannot be a process that only looks internally but crucially gives the party and the party members the opportunity to debate Scottish Labour’s vision for Scotland.”
Nominations from MPs, MSPs and MEPs will open on Friday October 31 and close on Tuesday November 4.
The ballot starts on Monday November 17 and the new leader will be announced on Saturday December 13.
Among those tipped for the leadership are Mr Sarwar, Jim Murphy MP and several prominent MSPs including Kezia Dugdale, Jenny Marra and Neil Findlay.
Gordon Brown MP has also been linked to the role but reports have suggested the former prime minister has ruled himself out of the running.
Mr Sarwar would not be drawn on whether he will stand as a candidate, though yesterday he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “I want to keep that option open, I want to think it through, but I think it’s right that I deal with my responsibility and my responsibility is to keep the Labour family together, to make sure we have a quick process to elect a new leader and we reflect the priorities that Scotland has. That’s my only focus today.”
Speaking following the meeting, chair of the Scottish Labour Party, Jamie Glackin said: “The Scottish Executive Committee agreed unanimously on the timetable and process for electing a new leader to take the Scottish Labour Party forward.
“I am pleased the timetable will balance the need for a speedy transition with the clear desire among members to both make their voice heard and hear the prospective cases from the candidates for leader.”
“A number of events will be held across Scotland before Scottish Labour’s new leader is announced on December 13th and I look forward to working with whoever the new leader is to take forward Labour values into Government in 2015 and 2016.”
Mr Sarwar said he did not recognise Ms Lamont’s comments accusing Westminster colleagues of treating Scotland as a “branch office” nor her description of some Scottish Labour MPs as “dinosaurs”.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said: “Johann Lamont’s resignation has lifted the lid on the scale of the infighting between Labour in Scotland and Labour at Westminster and has exposed the shambles that the Labour Party is for all to see - and people understand that the blame lies squarely at the door of Ed Miliband.
“The London-based leadership is pulling the party’s strings in Scotland, and Labour campaigning side-by-side the Tories in the referendum, has proved a deeply corrosive combination which is causing Labour support to plummet in Scotland.
“The latest polling analysis indicates that people in Scotland will not forget Labour’s alliance with the Tories. Labour are now polling at just 26% for next year’s UK general election, while SNP support has surged to 43% - and has been consistently high since the referendum.
“Labour were already a party in crisis, and Johann Lamont’s resignation - caused by infighting and deep division - has plunged them to a new low.”
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie insisted the party in Holyrood and in Westminster had the same aims.
Asked if Ms Lamont had been right to claim Labour figures in Westminster treated Scotland as a “branch office”, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “No, I don’t think so, not entirely.”
Ms Baillie said an internal review was carried out in 2011 that looked at the relationship with Westminster and changed the way the party was structured, making Ms Lamont the leader of the “whole party in Scotland”, not just MSPs.
Mr Murphy, Mr Brown and Mr Sarwar are “all credible” candidates to take over and but there are also “some very credible MSPs”, she added.