Nicola Sturgeon: I don’t know what Kezia Dugdale’s motives are

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale's decision to take part in I'm A Celebrity&Get Me Out Of Here has provoked harsh words across the political divide. Picture: Neil Hanna
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale's decision to take part in I'm A Celebrity&Get Me Out Of Here has provoked harsh words across the political divide. Picture: Neil Hanna
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Kezia Dugdale’s decision to appear on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here as the controversy over the ex-Labour leader’s stint on the show continues to mount.

Ms Dugdale’s successor Richard Leonard confirmed that the Lothians MSP did not have permission to appear on the reality TV show.

Ms Dugdale has been criticised for neglecting her duties to her constituents during her three-week stint on the programme.

The SNP leader became the latest big name to wade into the row, as she made it clear she would not allow one of her own Parliamentarians to appear on the programme.

“It’s not something I would want to see an SNP MSP do,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“MSPs are elected to represent their constituents. I think it’s important they do that.”

The First Minister continued: “I am not sure I entirely understand what Kezia Dugdale thinks she will benefit from this.

“I am also not clear what her motivation might be. It’s not a decision I would take.

“I’m not sure there are many politicians who would choose to do what she is doing.

“That said, she is in the Scottish Labour Party – they appear to be a nest of vipers, so perhaps getting away from that to the jungle, when you see it in that context, it’s easier to understand.”

Mr Leonard, who was elected to Scottish Labour’s top job on Saturday, said his predecessor had sought permission from Labour leaders before heading to the Australian jungle.

But he added that his understanding was that the party had not agreed to it.

Labour MSPs at Holyrood will this week consider if the former leader, who dramatically quit in August, should be suspended.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already said that this would not be appropriate, arguing it was Ms Dugdale’s choice to take part in the TV programme, which also includes Boris Johnson’s father Stanley and The Saturdays’ singer Vanessa White.

But Mr Leonard made clear that the party in Scotland would consider imposing such a sanction.

“My understanding is she sought permission and wasn’t given permission,” he said.

Mr Leonard added: “There is going to need to be a proper discussion about it, the circumstances around it and whether it is appropriate to take action or not.

“I am not persuaded the immediate step that the Labour Party needs to take is to suspend Kezia from membership of the Labour Party but I do think we need to have a discussion about it.”

Ms Dugdale remains an MSP for the Lothians region, and her decision to take part in the programme prompted an angry reaction.

Fellow Labour MSP Neil Findlay described the move as “utterly ludicrous” and said it “demeans politics.”

Ms Dugdale’s partner Jenny Gilruth, the Nationalist MSP, hit back on social media accusing Labour politicians of ­“bullying”.

A source close to Ms Dugdale confirmed she had asked Labour’s Holyrood business manager James Kelly for permission to go, but this was refused as the leadership election was going on at the time, and the winning candidate could appoint a new business manager.

It is understood that Ms Dugdale then approached both leadership candidates, Mr Leonard and Anas Sarwar, to ask if she could go away for three weeks. Both men agreed, the source said, although she did not explain to them that she would be going on the reality TV show.

The source said: “Kez turned down initial requests for her to go away to Australia for five weeks, but accepted the offer to appear on the show when it was reduced to just three weeks, with a guarantee she would be back for the Budget.”

Ms Dugdale will be donating her MSP’s salary to charity while away and a portion of her appearance fee.