Kezia Dugdale has announced she is standing to be the next leader of Scottish Labour, declaring it is “time for a new generation with a vision for the future of Scotland”.
Ms Dugdale, who was elected to Holyrood four years ago, became the party’s deputy leader north of the border in December.
She is now favourite to take over from Jim Murphy, who announced he would be stepping down after Scottish Labour lost 40 of its 41 seats north of the border in the general election.
Mr Murphy, who had been an MP for 18 years, was ousted from his East Renfrewshire constituency as Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP swept the board in Scotland.
Ms Dugdale, 33, said today: “I am standing to be Scottish Labour leader and I intend to transform my party for the good of my country.”
The Lothian MSP said she would formally launch her campaign next month, after the party has set out the rules and timetable for the leadership contest.
Ms Dugdale said at that point there would be “much more to say” on how Labour should deal with the challenges it faces.
But she stressed: “This is a moment when Scottish Labour must and will change. It’s time for a new generation with a vision for the future of Scotland.”
She added: “Labour lost badly in the general election. Nothing we can say or do will disguise that fact. The job of our next leader isn’t to explain away that loss or find excuses – it’s to understand why people were so reluctant to vote for us and find a way of regaining the trust of the people of Scotland.
“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge Scottish Labour faces. But we’ve been the insurgent force before, pushing back against the political establishment and winning great victories and profound social change.
“We will be that force again. Our values are what we will carry forward with us – all the rest is baggage.”
As well as the latest general election result, Labour in Scotland has also lost the last two Holyrood polls to the SNP, which secured an unprecedented overall majority at the Scottish Parliament in 2011.
While Ms Dugdale said her party has a “mountain to climb”, she argued that she offers “a fresh start for Scottish Labour”.
She declared: “The great social change we fight for is not a partisan cause. I can be a unifying figure across our party and our country.
“As the daughter of two teachers I know the value of education. At its best it can transform the life chances of young people, no matter their background. The only way we can secure a fairer, brighter tomorrow for Scotland is by giving our young people a better start in life today. As Scottish Labour leader that’s what I would work for every single day.”
Ken Macintosh, a veteran MSP and the party’s social justice spokesman, has also expressed an interest in standing for the leadership but has yet to make a formal declaration.
The Eastwood MSP stood for the leadership in 2011 but lost out to Johann Lamont.
Labour is also seeking a new leader for the national UK party following Ed Miliband’s decision to stand down in the wake of election, which saw the Conservatives win an unexpected majority in the House of Commons.