Scotland politics

Leonard unveils new Scottish Labour front bench team

Scottish Labour
Image caption Richard Leonard unveiled his gender-balanced front bench team at Holyrood

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has unveiled his front bench team at Holyrood.

The gender-balanced team includes a new role for left-wing MSP Neil Findlay as Brexit spokesman.

Leadership rival Anas Sarwar retains his position as heath spokesman, while Iain Gray and Jackie Baillie also stay.

There is no role for former leader Kezia Dugdale or her deputy Alex Rowley, who has been readmitted to the group following an investigation.

Mr Leonard said: "I met with both Alex and Kezia and we decided that they did not want to play a frontline role at this time in the Labour Party."

Mr Rowley had been sitting as an independent MSP while party chiefs investigated allegations about his behaviour, but that probe has since concluded and the Fife MSP has been reinstated to the parliamentary group.

He has also stepped down as deputy leader, with MP and shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird is standing in until a replacement is appointed.

'New start'

Several prominent MSPs remain in their prior posts following the reshuffle, with Mr Gray and Ms Baillie continuing as education and economy spokespeople respectively.

Elaine Smith joins the team as spokeswoman for the eradication of poverty, Monica Lennon is communities and social security spokeswoman, and Daniel Johnson is justice spokesman.

Former business manager James Kelly takes on the finance spokesperson role vacated by Ms Dugdale, who held it in tandem with the party leadership.

New Brexit spokesman Mr Findlay is seen as one of Labour's more Eurosceptic MSPs, having abstained from a Holyrood vote prior to the referendum - although he later raised a point of order in the chamber to stress that he voted Remain.

'Talent and experience'

In a symbolic vote opposing the triggering of Article 50, he broke the Labour whip to reject the motion - alongside the current leader Richard Leonard.

Mr Leonard said the new team was a "new start for Scottish Labour".

He said: "After seven years of Tory austerity and a decade of SNP mediocrity people are ready for the real and radical change the Labour Party offers.

"This team is a blend of energy, talent and experience, ready to hold this government to account put forward the positive difference a Scottish Labour government would make."

But SNP MSP George Adam said Mr Leonard was "more a peacekeeper than a radical - appointing the same old Labour faces on his front bench with just some minor tweaks round the fringes.

And he said the appointment of a "rampant Eurosceptic" as Labour's Brexit spokesman "shows they remain incapable of standing up for Scotland's interests."

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "This is a cabinet of cronies, with all those who supported Leonard in the leadership race being handed a senior role".

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