Scottish Labour has been thrown into disarray just days before the announcement of the results in its leadership election.
Interim leader Alex Rowley has resigned his post and referred himself to party investigation chiefs following allegations of abuse and threats of violence to an ex-lover – claims Rowley denies.
In a statement, the Mid Fife and Central Scotland MSP said: “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name. These allegations must be properly and thoroughly investigated in line with our party’s procedures – and I will refer myself to the party so such an investigation can take place. While that investigation is carried out, I will step aside as Deputy Leader, as well as Interim Leader, of the Scottish Labour Party.”
The Labour Party confirmed in a short statement: “Alex Rowley has stood aside as Interim and Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and referred himself to the Party’s internal complaints procedure regarding allegations made against him.”
Rowley stepped in to run the party and to steer Labour through new leadership elections after Kezia Dugdale’s surprise resignation in August.
But his interim leadership has been dogged by allegations of bias and increasingly bitter tone between MSPs supporting rival candidates Anas Sawar and Richard Leonard, has lead to claims that the party in Scotland is deeply divided.
In September secret recordings, claimed to have been made of a discussion between Rowley and a student activist in a queue for an event at the party’s Brighton conference, suggested that Rowley and fellow left labour MSPs had plotted the ending of Kezia Dugdale’s leadership of the party and declared his support for Richard Leonard as its new leader. The claim led to calls for Rowley to stand down as chair of an important Labour committee.
Richard Leonard’s campaign for the Scottish Labour leadership has been spear-headed by Alex Rowley’s daughter, Danielle Rowley, MP for Midlothian, who has refused to comment on her father’s resignation.