Exclusive: Lesley Laird declares her candidacy in Scottish Labour Deputy Leadership race

Today I am declaring my candidacy for the Deputy Leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.

To make a difference, politics has to be about vision. It must be about ideas and how they can be fulfilled.

And since the Scottish Labour Conference in Dundee last month, it has been clear that when we present a united vision with a unified voice then the Labour Party represents an irresistible and formidable force for real change.

Whether it’s at First Minister's Questions at Holyrood, Scottish Questions at Westminster, round the Shadow Cabinet table or at council meetings, Scottish Labour is making a difference.

We all have our part to play, whether we are MPs, MSPs, councillors or party members. It is my belief that there should be no dividing lines between Westminster, Holyrood and council chambers across Scotland.

That has been my focus as Shadow Scottish Secretary, as leader of our strengthened group of MPs and as interim Deputy Leader.

That work is now bearing fruit, with new working relationships forged between members of Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet and their counterparts in London, as well as MPs aligning with MSPs on key issues to ensure Scotland's voice is heard in London.

In addition we have established joint meetings with the Welsh PLP and through it, with our comrades in the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. It is this united front which piles pressure on Governments north and south of the border. I have built a strong working relationship with Jeremy and Richard, and taking on the role of Deputy Leader on an interim basis, I have come to the conclusion that I am best placed to continue this work. I bring to the table a lifetime of experience outside politics and a strong collaborative ethos.

I believe it is these qualities that the party needs at this time to continue its journey and to win the confidence of the electorate across Scotland and the UK.

Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard Labour is presenting a positive vision to the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK and in the process we are winning the support of many people who had turned their back on Labour.

I have no doubt that if a General Election is called any time soon that we have the leadership, the vision and the policies to win. I for one will be fully focused in ensuring we prepare for the next General Election, whenever it may be, and that we focus our renewed energy on building on the success of the last year.

At this critical moment for our party, as we prepare for government, we should not be distracted from the task in hand – to deliver for the many not the few.

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