Kezia Dugdale, Jackie Baillie and Richard Leonard.

By Bill Heaney

Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, looks poised to lead the Labour Party in Scotland into the next Scottish Parliamentary election in 2021 and the General Election for Westminster the following year.

It was announced today that Ms Baillie, who was recently elected Scottish Labour deputy leader with around 10,000 votes, will now act as the party’s finance spokesperson at Holyrood.

The announcement was made by the current Labour leader, Richard Leonard, a former GMB trade union officer, whose remit there was the Scotch Whisky industry, but who now looks certain to be replaced by Ms Baillie in the next year.

Leonard was appointed to replace Kezia Dugdale as Labour leader at Holyrood, but has since failed to distinguish himself either in debates or at First Minister’s Questions against the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

The SNP, who have been in power at Holyrood for 13 years, are beginning to look vulnerable in the wake of their cack-handed handling of the corona virus crisis and the looming parliamentary inquiry into the Alex Salmond “stitch up” sex allegations which were thrown out by the High Court.

After she quit, Kezia Dugdale then decided to quit politics and go into academia, taking up a post at the University of Glasgow.

One of the first mistakes Leonard as leader made was to sack Baillie from Labour’s front bench team, where she would have been invaluable to him.

Labour have almost disappeared off the Scottish political map since then and suffered badly under the Westminster leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The official announcement of Ms Baillie’s appointment came tonight.

It said: “Jackie Baillie has also been given responsibility as Campaign Co-ordinator for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 with political oversight of party organisation, reporting to Richard Leonard.

“She will also be working with Labour councillors on the Local government elections for 2022, and she will work closely with the General Secretary, Micheal Sharpe, across all areas of party activity, including external engagement, resourcing and candidate selection.”

Richard Leonard said: “I am glad that Jackie has agreed to speak for Scottish Labour on finance.

“She brings great experience and an eye for detail, and I am looking forward to working with her to develop our proposals for stimulating Scotland’s economy and investing in public services after Covid-19.

 “I am also delighted that Jackie will be coordinating our 2021 election campaign. Having won her constituency at every election since 1999, there is no-one better placed to ensure we are on a firm footing to win back constituency seats in the Scottish Parliament.”

Jackie Baillie said:  “I look forward to serving as Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson and helping to rebuild our economy and public services after the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have an equally challenging but important role in rebuilding the Scottish Labour Party, working with staff and all members across the labour and trade union movement, so that we become a winning electoral force again.”

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