Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley steps aside over conduct claims

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Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley has stepped aside amid claims about his conduct, according to the party.

The interim leader was put in charge of the party following the resignation of Kezia Dugdale.

Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard are currently contesting a leadership bid for the top role in the party.

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The move comes after claims by his former partner that Mr Rowley sent abusive text messages.

The Scottish Labour Party confirmed he would “stand aside” after a former partner siad that their relationship “felt like emotional blackmail and abuse”.

Mr Rowley was election agent for former prime minister Gordon Brown and is MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

Mr Rowley has denied the allegations and has vowed to clear his name.

In a statement, Mr Rowley said: “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name.

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“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 will 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.”

A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “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.”

Ms Dugdale has called for Mr Rowley to be suspended by Scottish Labour.

She said: “The allegations that have been made against Alex Rowley are serious and deeply concerning.

“I commend the bravery of all women who have come forward with allegations against those in positions of power, and we owe them answers.

“Had I remained in the position of leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I would not have hesitated to suspend Alex Rowley from the party while these allegations are fully investigated.”

She added: “Given the evidence published today, the right course of action for the Labour Party to take would be suspension.

“Sexual harassment and abuse is never acceptable. If the past weeks have taught us anything, it is that we need to support victims of abuse and every allegation needs to be taken seriously and investigated in a fair and transparent way.”