Scottish Labour’s deputy leader has publicly undermined his boss over the future of Jeremy Corbyn.
In a statement co-signed by fellow MSPs Neil Findlay and Richard Leonard, Mid Scotland and Fife representative Alex Rowley slammed attempts by MPs to dislodge the UK leader from his post.
Kezia Dugdale, who is in charge north of the border, suggested Mr Corbyn should quit his post earlier in the week.
In a move which highlighted deep divisions in the Scottish party, a counter petition was later issued calling on the UK leader to quit.
The statement by Mr Rowley, Mr Findlay and Mr Leonard said: “Jeremy Corbyn was democratically elected as leader of the Labour Party with almost 60% of members supporting him.
“His campaign succeeded because he offered an alternative to the austerity driven divisions within our economy and society. The events of the last few days have broken the hearts of Labour Party members across the UK.
“Labour Party members are not passive onlookers to be used and exploited at election time, only to be ignored thereafter – they are the lifeblood of our party, we are nothing without them.
“Democracy wherever it is found is a precious thing – we therefore want to make it clear that we wish to uphold the democratic rights of Labour Party members and support the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.”
Mr Corbyn was elected by a majority of Labour members and affiliates but has been criticised for his performance as leader.
More than three-quarters of his shadow cabinet has quit since Sunday, with a plethora of positions remaining unfilled, and the Parliamentary Labour Party passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in him on Tuesday.
Speaking shortly after that vote, Ms Dugdale told the BBC: “I would not be able to do my job if I did not have the support of the parliamentary party, regardless of the mandate that members give me. Jeremy should reflect on the outcome of the PLP vote, but I would not carry on in similar circumstances.”
A total of 13 Labour MSPs, which represent a majority for the party in the Scottish Parliament, signed the new statement.
Those included shadow education secretary Iain Gray, shadow health secretary Anas Sarwar, former leader Johann Lamont, group chair Mary Fee and whip Colin Smyth.
Their statement said: “The first duty of the Labour Party is to provide an effective voice for working people in communities, council chambers, Assemblies and Parliaments across the UK. All of us joined the Labour Party because we aspire to deliver Labour Governments in Scotland and across the UK.
“As Parliamentarians, and the elected representatives in a parliament representing millions of people – including Labour voters – across Scotland, we would expect any Leader to reflect seriously on such a substantial vote of no confidence. As Kezia Dugdale rightly said, if she could not command the confidence of 80% of her Labour Group then she would consider her position.
“In circumstances where a General Election may be called in the next few weeks or months, we believe that the Leader of the Labour Party has to have the confidence of the MPs he leads in order to be our candidate for Prime Minister.
“It is deeply regrettable that we have to make such a statement, but for the good of the party and, more importantly, the country we believe Jeremy Corbyn, who is a principled man, must do the right thing and allow the party to once again provide effective opposition and regroup as a credible party of Government.”
Some Labour figures have now urged Ms Dugdale and her team to clamp down on rebellious members. One source said: “The rest of them are gutless.”
Another senior Labour source said: “It’s odd seeing Rowley’s name on that given he repeatedly reported back to meetings during Scottish Election that Corbyn was going down very badly on the doorstep and that he was a liability.”
And a senior Labour activist added: “Alex Rowley is such a big fan of democracy that he bottled it and took the protected space at the top of the list after saying he wouldn’t.”
That is a reference to Mr Rowley accepting the automatic top spot on the regional list in May’s Holyrood election that comes with being part of the leadership team.
He had said in his election campaign to be deputy leader that he would not do so but later changed his mind.