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Scottish Labour’s executive committee has rejected proposals for nearly all its Holyrood regional lists to be led by women after the party’s lawyers ruled it would be illegal.

In a defeat for Richard Leonard, the Scottish leader, and his supporters, the party’s executive (SEC) has adopted a scheme pushed by the Scottish TUC called “step aside brother” where male candidates agree a woman takes the top slot in an election, but made it voluntary.

Labour’s governance unit in London warned the Scottish party that since its gender balance is reasonably good, discriminatory measures to increase women’s representation were likely to be unlawful. The UK party has had similar problems with all-women shortlists in parts of England.

The disagreement on how to select Labour’s list candidates for next May’s Holyrood election had significant ramifications, and exposed tensions over how the party supports male MSPs with other protected characteristics such as race and disability.

The party’s dire polling, putting it at as low as 12%, implies that one moderate male MSP who has ADHD, Daniel Johnson, might struggle to hold on to his Edinburgh Southern constituency seat, and would need to win a Holyrood place via list votes. Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s only BAME MSP, would have to take a lower place in the list rankings even if he was Glasgow region’s most popular candidate.

Now Labour members will be balloted to rank candidates in order of popularity, with candidates then zipped by gender, ordered male-female or female-male depending on which candidate tops the list. As leader, Leonard was already guaranteed the top slot in central Scotland, regardless of which policy was agreed.


More than 50 pupils at one of England’s top boarding schools have tested positive for Covid-19.

Sedbergh school in eastern Cumbria said that 53 senior students in four different boarding houses had confirmed cases.

“The vast majority were asymptomatic, and we must therefore assume that a number of pupils across the school have Covid-19,” the principal, Andrew Fleck, wrote in a letter to parents on Monday.

Mobile testing units would test all students and staff on Tuesday and Wednesday, the principal said. Those who test positive will be asked to travel home and isolate for 10 days.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron and local Liberal Democrat councillors have asked for testing to be offered to everyone in Sedbergh following the outbreak.

Local district councillor Suzie Pye said:

Sedbergh school is a massive part of the town and many people employed there live in our community, so there is a very strong case in offering a test to any local resident who would like one. We must act quickly to protect local people and get this under control.


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