In what was described as a “chaotic” reshuffle yesterday afternoon, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard sacked two of the party’s most well-known MSPs from his front bench.
The surprise cut of Jackie Baillie, who holds considerable experience having been first elected as an MSP in 1999, and former leadership candidate Anas Sarwar comes as Leonard attempts to ‘unite’ the party north of the border.
In true 2018 fashion, Twitter delivered the news to Sarwar that he was to be removed from his health portfolio. He described it as “a shame” that he learned of the news via social media whilst leading a health debate in the chamber.
Controversially, former interim leader Alex Rowley, who resigned from the frontbench last year following allegations of harassment, has been reappointed to the team as shadow cab sec for communities and local government.
A boost also comes to rising star Monica Lennon, who replaces Sarwar on the Health and Sport portfolio. The appointment is a logical next step for the Central Scotland MSP, who has been vocal on a wide range of health issues including free sanitary products provision, suicide prevention, educational psychology, and alcohol and substance misuse.
In recent weeks, the party’s members have been split over UK Labour’s decision to withdraw funding and support for former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s defamation case against Wings Over Scotland.
Looking ahead to 2021, Leonard also announced that the deputy leader Lesley Laird will begin a review of the party’s organisation and operations to prepare for the next Holyrood elections. Perhaps she will suggest that star players should not be removed from the pitch during extra time…
The full Shadow Cabinet list is available here.