Scottish Labour Party leadership election, 2014

Scottish Labour Party leadership election

17 November 2014 – 13 December 2014

Candidate Sarah Boyack Neil Findlay Jim Murphy
First preferences
Two-candidate preferred

Leader before election

Anas Sarwar (pro tempore)

Elected Leader


The 2014 Scottish Labour Party leadership election is a forthcoming internal party election to choose a new leader and deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, following the resignations of Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar. Lamont announced her decision in an interview with the Daily Record on 24 October, saying that she was stepping down with immediate effect because the UK Labour Party treated the Scottish party as a "branch office of London", and referred to some of her Westminster colleagues as "dinosaurs". Lamont, who won the 2011 leadership contest, was the second leader of a Scottish political party to resign in the wake of the 2014 independence referendum after Alex Salmond announced his intention to relinquish the role of Scottish National Party leader and First Minister. Sarwar announced his own resignation on 30 October, saying he felt it was right for the party to elect a new leadership team.

Sarwar became interim leader following Lamont's resignation, and announced plans for the party to hold a leadership contest, of which the winner would be announced on 13 December. On 28 October Sarah Boyack became the first person to confirm that she would be standing as a candidate for party leader. She was joined by Neil Findlay and Jim Murphy, who both declared the following day. Katy Clark and Kezia Dugdale entered the deputy leadership race on 1 November and 2 November respectively. Other senior Labour figures decided not to stand. Findlay was among those to call on former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to enter the contest, but he ruled out doing so. Others who decided not to put their names forward included Sarwar, Jackie Baillie and Jenny Marra.


Lamont was elected to lead the Scottish Labour Party in December 2011 following the resignation of Iain Gray, who stepped down in the wake of the party's defeat by Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party at the 2011 Scottish Parliament general election–its second consecutive defeat.[1] She was the first leader to take charge of the entire Scottish Labour Party, previous leaders having only had responsibility for Labour's MSPs at Holyrood, and she initiated a review of Labour policy on issues such as devolution and the party's commitment to free universal public services.[1] The Scotsman '​s Euan McColm writes that although Lamont was given greater autonomy, Westminster colleagues "restrained" her attempts to develop a devolution policy, and her debate on universal benefits left her looking ineffective when the SNP portrayed her as "a politician dedicated to seizing from the people that which was rightfully theirs".[1] Her leadership was further harmed by the controversy over the 2013 Falkirk candidate selection in which the trade union Unite allegedly tried to engineer the selection process in the Falkirk constituency, and when an investigation into the matter was led from London rather than Edinburgh.[1] Lamont also led the party through the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence during which Labour became part of the Better Together campaign, an alliance of parties which campaigned for a "No" vote, but Lamont herself had a relatively low profile during the lead up to the poll.[2][3]

The referendum was held on 18 September 2014, and saw Scotland reject independence.[4] Salmond announced his resignation as SNP leader and First Minister the day after the referendum, and was succeeded by Nicola Sturgeon following a leadership election.[5][6] Also on 19 September, UK Prime Minister David Cameron established the Smith Commission to look at the prospect of devolving further powers to Scotland. Chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, the cross-party Commission published its findings on 27 November, and among its recommendations were proposals to give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for some welfare payments, and for setting levels of income tax. Having previously been opposed to giving Holyrood greater tax powers amid concerns it could diminish the role of Scottish MPs at Westminster and lead to "independence by the back door", Labour confirmed its intention to support income tax devolution shortly before details of the Commission's report were made public.[7][8][9]

Although Scotland had voted to remain as part of the UK, the independence referendum had returned "Yes" votes in some traditional Labour strongholds, particularly Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, prompting media speculation about Lamont's future as the party's leader.[10] Shortly after the referendum, a Daily Mail article claimed that Shadow International Development Secretary Jim Murphy was being lined up to take over from her,[11] while The Herald reported that party delegates concerned about the results had started to view Murphy as a possible successor.[12] Lamont had attempted to quash rumours of a leadership challenge at the 25 September 2014 session of First Minister's Questions, the first of the post-referendum era. "When the First Minister is long gone I will still be doing my job on behalf of the people of Scotland."[10] Her position remained uncertain. The Daily Telegraph '​s Alan Cochrane writes that many Labour MPs in Scotland feared losing their seats at the 2015 UK general election without a change of leadership.[13] In October, two former first ministers voiced their concern about the direction of the party. Jack McConnell expressed fears that Labour would experience increased difficulty in regaining the confidence of Scottish voters following the election of Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, and described Labour as "a political machine that is angry about what has happened in Scotland in the recent past".[2] Shortly afterwards, his predecessor, Henry McLeish suggested Labour had ceded "enormous ground to the SNP unnecessarily" because its supporters no longer understood "what the party stands for".[2] Margaret Curran, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said that although the party was changing, it needed to reconnect with its "socialist principles".[14]


Front page of the 25 October 2014 edition of the Daily Record in which Lamont announced her resignation.

Lamont's resignation as Labour leader was reported by media outlets on the evening of 24 October 2014, following the publication of an interview with the Daily Record in which she announced her intention to step down with immediate effect.[5][13] She told the newspaper that she was resigning because Labour's Westminster leadership had undermined her attempts to reform the party in Scotland, and treated Scottish Labour “like a branch office of London.”.[13] She described some London-based colleagues as "dinosaurs" unable to understand that "Scotland has changed forever" following the referendum. Lamont was also angry that she had not been consulted on some matters, such as a decision by the UK leadership to replace Ian Price as Scottish Labour's General Secretary.[5][13] In her letter of resignation, submitted to Scottish Labour Party Chairman Jamie Glackin, Lamont accused "senior members of the party" of questioning her role and said that she was taking herself "out of the equation" to allow Scottish Labour to have a discussion about the best way forward.[15] Anas Sarwar became Labour's acting leader. On 26 October, following a meeting of the party's executive committee, he outlined the details of the leadership election.[16] It was confirmed the next day that Jackie Baillie would represent Labour in the Scottish Parliament at the following session of First Minister's Questions.[17]

Following Lamont's announcement, Miliband paid tribute to her, saying she had "led the Scottish Labour Party with determination".[18] McLeish and McConnell both indicated that Lamont's sudden departure following weeks of speculation could have implications for Miliband's leadership. McLeish said that Miliband's chance of becoming Prime Minister could be affected if Labour returned fewer Scottish MPs in 2015, something he called a problem of “historic, epic proportions”,[13] while McConnell said that he was "very, very angry" and suggested Miliband had questions to answer about the circumstances surrounding the resignation.[13] Salmond echoed the views of his predecessor, arguing that Miliband "should be answering questions about why Labour in Scotland is run as an extension of his Westminster office, and why he has effectively forced the resignation of a Labour leader in Scotland."[19] Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, rejected Lamont's claims about UK Labour's treatment of its Scottish counterpart.[20]

On 30 October, an IPSOS/Mori poll conducted for STV indicated the SNP had much greater support among Scottish voters in comparison to Labour, putting the SNP on 52%, compared to 23% for Labour. On the same day, a YouGov poll conducted for The Times gave the two parties 43% and 27% respectively.[21] 30 October also saw Anas Sarwar announce his resignation as deputy leader at a Scottish Labour fundraising dinner in Glasgow, triggering a deputy leadership election.[22] Sarwar said that he disagreed with Lamont's assessment of UK Labour,[22] and that he was stepping down because he felt that it was "right that we have a concurrent leadership and deputy leadership election. This will allow a Scottish Labour party, its members and affiliates the opportunity to not only elect a leader, but a new leadership team focussed on winning in 2016."[21]

Election details

Anas Sarwar announced details of the timetable for the contest on 26 October 2014, following a meeting of Scottish Labour's executive committee. Potential candidates would be invited to declare their interest from the following day, with nominations open from 31 October to 4 November. Balloting would begin on 17 November, and the announcement of the new leader would occur on 13 December. Sarwar said that voting would be held using the three-tier electoral college, in which individual party members, parliamentarians, and affiliated bodies such as trade unions all have an equal say in the outcome.[16] Plans to change Scottish Labour's electoral system to a one person, one vote ballot like that of the UK Labour Party were under review at the time of the leadership contest, but as forging ahead with these changes before the election of a new Scottish leader would delay the process, the decision was taken to use the existing method instead.[23] Explaining this on the day the contest was announced, Sarwar told BBC News, "We have had unanimous agreement to get the balance right between moving quickly to elect a new leader and also allowing a period of time to have an open, frank and honest debate about the future direction of the Scottish Labour party."[16] The deputy leadership contest followed the same timetable after Sarwar relinquished that role.[24]

After nominations closed on 4 November, the candidates took part in a series of hustings meetings at locations around Scotland.[25][26] Venues for the events were announced on 13 November, with the first set to take place in Dundee on 20 November.[27] This would be followed by meetings in Glasgow, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and Cumbernauld. In addition, the candidates would also address the Scottish Women’s Conference, Youth and Student Conference and the Councillors’ Conference.[27] The candidates also took part in a televised debate on a special edition of BBC Two Scotland's political programme, Scotland 2014, on 18 November.[28]

In what a Scottish Labour spokesman described as a bid to "encourage transparency", the party took the decision to publish details of how its parliamentarians had voted during the ballot, a process that had previously been kept private.[29]


Map showing candidates nominated by Scottish Labour's Westminster MP's.

On 28 October, MSP and Shadow Local Government Minister Sarah Boyack became the first person to confirm that she would be standing as a candidate for party leader.[30][31][32] MSP and Shadow Health Minister Neil Findlay, and then MP and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Jim Murphy were the second and third candidates to declare their candidacies, respectively, on 29 October.[33][34] On 1 November, Katy Clark, the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, became the first person to join the deputy leadership race.[35] Kezia Dugdale, an MSP for Lothian and Labour's Shadow Education Secretary at Holyrood, announced she would also be a deputy leadership candidate on 2 November.[36] Each candidate was required to secure 10 nominations from among Scottish Labour members of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament and European Parliament, of whom there were 80. Of those standing in the contest, Murphy received the support of 43 parliamentarians, Findlay secured 12 nominations and Boyack 10. Dugdale was backed by 51 of her colleagues and Clark had 11 nominations.[37]

Several other prominent Labour figures ruled themselves out of standing.[17] Neil Findlay and Michael Connarty, the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, both urged former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to enter the race, but he declined the suggestion.[17][38][39] Other potential candidates who decided not to run were Sarwar, who wished to concentrate on plans for the next general election, and Baillie, Holyrood's Shadow Health Secretary, who said she wanted a "supporting role" rather than to be Labour leader.[17][40] Dugdale, and Jenny Marra, Labour's deputy finance and youth employment spokeswoman, also decided not to stand.[40] Dugdale felt she did not have the experience to lead the party.[41] Marra was subsequently appointed to lead Murphy's campaign alongside MSP James Kelly.[42]

Candidates and campaigns


Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy, a former President of the National Union of Students, was first elected to the House of Commons as the MP for Eastwood at the 1997 general election. After serving in junior roles in the post-1997 Labour government, he was appointed as Secretary of State for Scotland in 2008, where he led a Scottish business mission to Shanghai and played a key role in organising the Scotland leg of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom. He took charge of Labour's Scottish campaign for the 2010 general election, securing a 3% swing to Labour in Scotland against a defeat for the party at UK level. He became Shadow Defence Secretary after the election, before moving to the post of Shadow International Development Secretary in 2013. In 2011 he co-chaired the Murphy–Boyack review into the structure of the Scottish Labour Party, and became a prominent figure in the Better Together campaign during the 2014 referendum when he toured 100 towns in 100 days to campaign for a No vote.[43][44] Commentators, such as the BBC's Aiden James and The Guardian '​s Severin Carrell, have described Murphy as being from the Blairite right of the party.[43][45]

Murphy launched his leadership campaign in Edinburgh on 1 November, saying that a "lack of vision" and a failure to listen to Scottish voters had led to them deserting Labour.[46] The following day he announced that he had stood down from the role of Shadow International Development Secretary in order to concentrate on his Scottish Labour leadership campaign.[47] He had previously spoken of uniting Scottish Labour and Scotland after the referendum, and said that if chosen to lead the party he would stand for election to the Scottish Parliament at the 2016 election, "if not before".[43] He suggested that it was "compulsory" that an MSP should be his deputy,[48] and also wanted greater devolution for Scotland.[49] His leadership bid was backed by the Community and USDAW trade unions.[50] He was also endorsed by Neil Kinnock, a former leader of the UK Labour Party, who donated an undisclosed sum of money to his campaign,[51] and Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran.[52] During the campaign Murphy said that Scottish Labour should take greater responsibility in areas such as policy making, fundraising and campaigning, and that funds paid to UK Labour by Scottish Labour councillors should be used exclusively for Scotland. Murphy also wanted to spend £5,000 in every Labour-held Scottish constituency at Holyrood and Westminster, as well as seats the party planned to target at future elections, and pledged a "radical change" in Labour's campaign strategy.[50] He promised to introduce gender equality legislation requiring an equal male/female representation in the Scottish Cabinet and on the boards of Scottish-based companies, as well as appointing a Cabinet Minister for Women.[53] He announced plans to invite the leaders of Scotland's other political parties to talks aimed at developing a strategy for the provision of services for the elderly, which were coming under increasing pressure from an ageing population.[54] He urged Scottish Labour to support the full devolution of tax raising powers, a position previously opposed by the party, stating it was "as important a change for the Scottish Labour Party as the rewriting of Clause Four was for the UK Labour Party”,[55] a reference to the now defunct policy that had committed the party to nationalisation.[56] He further said he would introduce a 50p top rate of tax for earners above £150,000.[57] If elected as First Minister he would devolve some welfare responsibilities handed to Holyrood by the Smith Commission, such as the Work Programme, to local authorities.[9] On education he pledged to create a national centre for excellence, introduce chartered status for teachers, and identify and provide support to secondary schools that are deemed to be failing in order to help improve the education of their students.[58]

Sarah Boyack

Sarah Boyack, a former chair of Scottish Labour Students and its UK-wide counterpart, Labour Students, was elected as the MSP for Edinburgh Central at the Scottish Parliament's inaugural election of 1999. She served in both the Dewar and McLeish governments, where she was Environment Minister and later Transport Minister.[45][59] When McConnell succeeded McLeish in 2001 she lost the Transport brief in a cabinet reshuffle and became a backbencher. After subsequently chairing the Parliament's Environmental and Rural Affairs Committee, she briefly returned to government prior to Labour's defeat at the 2007 election. She lost her Edinburgh seat in 2011, but was elected as a list MSP for the Lothian region at the same election. As well as co-chairing the Murphy–Boyack review, she served as a member of Labour's Devolution Commission in 2013.[59] The Guardian reported that she would stand as a centrist candidate, while Lesley Riddoch of The Scotsman suggested she had "an instinct for co-operation and consensus building".[45][60] Boyack describes herself as a socialist.[61]

Launching her campaign in Edinburgh on 7 November, Boyack said that she would be a "listening leader" who would tackle funding shortfalls in the NHS and local government.[62] She would also publish 100 new ideas aimed at improving lives after meeting people during her campaign.[63] Positioning herself as a unifying candidate who would make the party "fit for purpose", she called for "bold and radical" new approaches to policy, which would require Labour to be honest about funding crises in local government and health, but did not say whether this would require an increase in taxation, claiming the issue was "not just an issue about raising taxes... but about new opportunities as well".[64] If elected, she pledged to work with the SNP government when she felt it was in the best interest of Scotland to do so, but said Labour would also be an effective opposition, holding the government to account when necessary. Policy areas a Boyack leadership would campaign on included better funding for healthcare and other frontline services, improvements to childcare, education and youth employment opportunities, and the devolvement of power to local government.[65] She backed the scrapping of the UK Trident programme, due for renewal in 2016.[66] She wanted to reform Council tax, which had been frozen since the SNP came to power in 2007, and suggested the existing eight tax bands should be redrawn. She also said she would allow local authorities to raise a tourism tax, while environmentally friendly power firms and bus companies would be created to raise public funds.[67] She supported establishing a consensus on whether or not to have full tax devolution, but had "reservations" about the prospect of devolving further taxes to Holyrood.[57] She favoured devolving welfare benefits to Scotland.[68] She told STV's Stephen Daisley that she wished "to make Scottish Labour a force in Scottish politics again"[61] After publishing a list of social justice themed policies she announced plans to establish a Commission similar to the Social Justice Commission created by UK Labour leader John Smith in 1994, which helped to shape Labour policy in areas such as employment and welfare.[58] Her candidacy was backed by the Scottish Co-Operative Party.[69]

Neil Findlay

Neil Findlay, a former bricklayer and teacher, was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP for Lothian in 2011, having previously been a councillor in West Lothian.[70] Subsequently appointed as Shadow Health Minister, he was also a member of the Red Paper Collective, a group of politicians who called on Labour to support the full devolution of income tax powers to Scotland.[71] Politically, Findlay is described by a BBC profile as "widely described as being on the left wing of his party [and] happy to describe himself as a socialist".[71]

Findlay called for the creation of "clear red water" between Scottish Labour and the SNP. Policy options he raised included raising the minimum wage, the reintroduction of council house building, reduction in the use of the private sector in NHS Scotland, and allowing councils to set their own taxes to help reverse job losses within local government.[71] The Trade Unions ASLEF, CWU, GMB, Musicians' Union, NUM, RMT, TSSA, UCATT, UNISON and Unite supported Findlay's candidacy.[72][73] His campaign was launched on 8 November at the Miners' Welfare Club in Fauldhouse, West Lothian, his home village, where he described himself as "no machine politician",[72] and called for a return to the "timeless Labour values of community, solidarity, fairness and justice".[74] He said that if elected as leader his 2016 election campaign would focus on tackling youth unemployment, the introduction of a living wage and improvements to health and social care.[72][74] He wanted to make the party more "autonomous" by involving its members and trade unions to create a party that was "more collective and co-operative in nature".[50] Among his plans for devolution was for Holyrood to have power over employment regulations to enable the creation of a Scottish Health and Safety Executive and the introduction of corporate culpable homicide legislation.[73] On gender equality, Findlay announced plans for legislation to address the gender pay gap, as well as increasing the number of women MSPs, and the number of women on "the bodies that take decisions for our country".[53] He planned to lobby the UK government to scrap the UK Trident programme if Miliband becomes prime minister at the next election,[54] wanted to renationalise the railways in Scotland, bring an end to public-private partnerships, and commit the party to full employment.[70] He supported introducing a 50p tax band "to tackle poverty and youth unemployment",[57] but urged caution on tax devolvement to ensure Scotland did not end up "worse off".[55] He said there would be "no privatisation of the NHS under my leadership".[75] If elected he promised to "hit the ground running", and said he would be ready to take on Nicola Sturgeon at the next session of First Minister's Questions.[58]

Deputy leadership

Kezia Dugdale

Kezia Dugdale, who joined the Labour Party in 2004 after graduating from the University of Aberdeen, was elected as an MSP for the Lothian region in 2011, and later appointed to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Health Minister.[41] She quickly ruled herself out of running for the leadership, but told the Edinburgh Evening News she would consider entering a deputy leadership contest, describing herself as a "sidekick, not a superhero".[41] She also spoke of her intention to serve no more than three terms in Parliament.[41]

At the launch of her deputy leadership campaign, Dugdale talked of improving employment, wages, education and childcare, saying that she stood for "tomorrow's Scotland - a country free from poverty and injustice, with opportunity for everyone".[76] Many of the parliamentarians who nominated Dugdale for deputy leader also endorsed Murphy's leadership bid, but she ruled out standing with Murphy on a joint ticket.[76] Along with Murphy, she secured the backing of the Community trade union.[77] She was also endorsed by the Scottish Co-Operative Party.[69] She suggested taxing bankers in order to pay for jobs.[78]

Katy Clark

Katy Clark, a former solicitor with UNISON, joined the Labour Party at the age of 17.[79] She was elected to the House of Commons as the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran at the 2005 general election.[76] The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reports that as a parliamentarian she developed a reputation as a party rebel who, at the time of the leadership contest, had most recently voted against British participation in the 2014 military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[79]

Clark spoke of a need to recognise "that Scottish politics has changed and it can't be business as usual.[76] Policy areas she intended to focus on included improvements in employment, housing and public services, which she said were "prevented for too many by wealth being held in the hands of a minority."[76] She also spoke of reaching out to people she claimed had "abandoned hope in Labour" or voted for independence, and that the party needed to "take a new path" because people wanted social and economic change, which previous Labour governments had not delivered.[80] Among the policies she supported were renationalisation of the railways, introducing free childcare for children over the age of twelve months, introducing a living wage, and the abolition of the Trident programme and student tuition fees. She also claimed that Labour in Scotland had "been taken to the political abyss" by "New Labour and its architects".[81] She claimed that Labour would find it harder to be re-elected if she was not chosen as its deputy leader.[82] She won the support of UNISON after announcing her intention to enter the deputy leadership contest,[76] and was also backed by the Communication Workers' Union, Unite, the GMB and the Musicians' Union.[27][50]


While Labour distributed ballot packs to its members, the trade unions were responsible for sending out literature relating to the contest to their members, leading to concerns from both sides about the content of the other's election material.[83][84] After Labour included only the endorsements of parliamentarians in an information booklet sent to individual members, the Unite union wrote to Iain McNicol, the party's general secretary, to ask why details of support from organisations, such as trade unions, was omitted. Unite felt the decision unfairly favoured Murphy, and suggested it would make a formal complaint along with other unions if necessary. Pat Rafferty, secretary of Unite's Scottish branch, described the incident as "a gross error of judgment".[83] On 30 November, Sunday Herald journalist Paul Hutcheon reported that along with voting packs, Unite had also sent literature to its members in the form of a "mock ballot paper" instructing them to vote for Findlay and Clark, while the GMB union had also included material endorsing Findlay and Clark as their preferred candidates. Hutcheon quoted an unnamed senior Labour Party source, who described the actions as "absolutely desperate stuff from Unite".[84]

Following a Sunday Herald article in which the Labour MP Tom Watson suggested Murphy's election would be "disastrous" for the party, he and Ivan Lewis, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland engaged in a heated exchange on Twitter during which Lewis accused Watson of manipulating past UK Labour leadership contests, and wanting to influence the election of the party's next Scottish leader.[85][86] Watson, who resigned as a defence minister in 2006 after suggesting that Tony Blair should step down as Prime Minister, rejected claims that he had sought to manipulate previous Labour leadership contests.[87]


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