Sarah Boyack will take the list seat set to be vacated by Ms Dugdale, who yesterday announced her decision to stand down as an MSP and take up a role as director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service in Glasgow University.
Ms Boyack said she was returning to deal with “unfinished business.”
Currently head of public affairs role with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, she was an MSP for Edinburgh Central constituency from the very first days of the Scottish Parliament, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
She served as Minister for the Environment, Planning and Transport in the first two years of the new Scottish Executive before becoming Minister for Transport, during which time she introduced one of Scottish Labour’s flagship policies of free bus travel for people over 60 and disabled people.
While she lost her seat in the 2011 election to the SNP’s Marco Biagi she still returned to Holyrood as a list MSP. However she missed out completely in the 2016 Holyrood elections when Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson won the constituency, and she was behind Kezia Dugdale and Neil Findlay on Labour’s Lothians list.
She said: “I’ve had the privilege to have worked with SFHA, its members and stakeholders for the last two years and have seen the impact both of the Scottish Parliament in framing the work they do and their day in day out support for communities and the affordable, safe and secure homes that they provide for tenants.
“However, there is unfinished business for me. In the last three years the case for concerted action on climate change and the need to redouble our efforts to tackle poverty has accelerated. In Edinburgh, the affordable, accessible housing people need has become harder and harder to secure. And then there’s the uncertainty and division caused by Brexit.
“These are huge challenges and I’d relish the opportunity to serve in the Scottish Parliament. Finally, I’d want to pay tribute to the hard work of Kez and her team in the Lothians.”
Ms Boyack also campaigned for the leadership of Scottish Labour after Johann Lamont stood down after the 2014 independence referendum, but came third to Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay.
Her return could prove timely for Scottish Labour’s as the Parliament debates the upcoming Climate Change Bill - Ms Boyack is a recipient of the RSPB Goldcrest Award for the most outstanding contribution to the development of environmental policy in Scotland since devolution. She was also named the Scottish Renewables Best Politician in 2005.
Ms Boyack was one of the first female students at Edinburgh’s Royal High School, and is a qualified town planner.