Published3 minutes ago
Richard Leonard has resigned as Scottish Labour leader, saying it is in the best interests of the party for him to stand down.
Mr Leonard said he believed speculation about his leadership had become a "distraction".
And he said he would be stepping down with immediate effect.
Mr Leonard had been leader of the party for three years after succeeding Kezia Dugdale.
The former union official had faced open calls to quit from some of his own MSPs last year amid concerns that his leadership style could damage the party in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election.
Polls have suggested that many Scottish Labour supporters struggle to recognise him, and he is closely associated with former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Scottish Labour dominated politics in Scotland for decades, but is currently the third largest party at Holyrood behind the SNP and Conservatives.
And Mr Leonard's critics had questioned whether he was capable of turning the party's fortunes around.
In a statement, Mr Leonard said the decision to resign had not been easy - but he felt it was the right one for him and his party.
He said: "I have thought long and hard over the Christmas period about what this crisis means, and the approach Scottish Labour takes to help tackle it.
"I have also considered what the speculation about my leadership does to our ability to get Labour's message across. This has become a distraction.
"I have come to the conclusion it is in the best interests of the party that I step aside as leader of Scottish Labour with immediate effect."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Leonard should be "very proud" of his achievements as leader of the party in Scotland.
Sir Keir added: "I would like to thank Richard for his service to our party and his unwavering commitment to the values he believes in.
"Richard has led Scottish Labour through one of the most challenging and difficult periods in our country's history, including a general election and the pandemic."