Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley steps aside over conduct claims

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Alex Rowley has been absent from Holyrood in recent weeks because of a chest infection

Scottish interim Labour leader Alex Rowley has stepped aside from the role amid claims about his conduct, the party has said.

In a statement, Mr Rowley rejected the allegations and said he would work to clear his name.

It follows claims in The Scottish Sun that the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP sent abusive text messages to a former partner.

Mr Rowley has referred himself to the party’s investigation unit.

He had been absent from Holyrood for the past two weeks, with party bosses citing a chest infection and fellow MSP Jackie Baillie filling in for him at first minister’s questions.

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

“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 can 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.”

‘Deeply concerning’

Mr Rowley, who previously served as election agent for former prime minister Gordon Brown, has been standing in as the Scottish Labour leader since Kezia Dugdale stood down in August.

In a statement, Ms Dugdale said that had she remained in charge, she would have suspended Mr Rowley from the party while the “serious and deeply concerning” allegations were investigated.

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.”

The winner of the party’s leadership contest is due to be announced this weekend.

Mr Rowley’s position as interim leader had previously been questioned when he was caught on tape backing Richard Leonard as the “best candidate” for the job, over rival Anas Sarwar.

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