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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK

UK Politics

Labour denies London control claim

Alex Rowley says he has completed his task for Labour

Senior sources have denied that the general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party was sacked on the instructions of London-based officials.

Alex Rowley has left the post, saying his task of helping the party win the Scottish Parliamentary elections had been completed and he wanted to move on to new challenges.

BBC Scotland has been told by high-ranking Labour sources that Mr Rowley left of his own volition.

Suggestions that Millbank, Labour's headquarters in London, was dictating policy in Scotland, were ridiculous.

[ image: Mike Russell: Evidence of London Labour influence]
Mike Russell: Evidence of London Labour influence
Mr Rowley said: "Working with the leadership, membership and staff of the Scottish Labour Party over the past year has been a pleasure and a privilege.

"When I became general secretary I had only one task in mind, to help win the Scottish Parliament elections.

"Now that is completed, I want to pursue other plans and will announce details in due course."

The former Fife Council leader had been seen as an increasingly marginalised figure in recent months but said he is leaving his post with a sense of achievement.

"This time last year we were trailing the SNP in the polls and Labour's prospects for the Scottish Parliament elections were being written off.

"This week Donald Dewar has been sworn in as Scotland's First Minister and a new ministerial team has been appointed.

"We achieved record results for a party in the middle of its first term of government.

"We held more parliamentary seats and more council seats than we ever thought possible. The SNP got a smaller share of the vote than they managed 25 years ago."

European election

Lesley Quinn, Assistant General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, will become acting general secretary to co-ordinate the party's European election campaign.

But the party is set to review its structures in a process expected to last about a month.

The Scottish National Party seized on Mr Rowley's departure as evidence of what it claimed was London control of Scottish Labour.

"Alex Rowley's departure, having clearly been pushed by Millbank, illustrates that Labour in Scotland are run by the control freaks in London," said the SNP's Mike Russell, South of Scotland regional MSP.

[ image: Donald Dewar paid tribute to Alex Rowley]
Donald Dewar paid tribute to Alex Rowley
"London may control the Labour Party but they will not get their way in controlling the Scottish Parliament by remote control from London because the SNP, as Scotland's opposition, will not let them get away with," he said.

Mr Rowley, 35, became Scottish Labour general secretary a year ago.

First Minister Donald Dewar paid tribute to Mr Rowley, saying: "Alex Rowley has done a tremendous job for the Labour Party and made a massive contribution.

"I hope that he will go on to play just as important a role in the future and I look forward to working with him again."

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