Three Scottish Labour MSPs have called on the party’s leader, Richard Leonard, to quit ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament election.
James Kelly has resigned as the party’s justice spokesman, saying he had no confidence in Mr Leonard’s leadership.
His colleagues Jenny Marra and Daniel Johnson have also voiced their opposition to the current leadership.
Mr Leonard is determined to stay in his post, and accused the MSPs of waging an “internal war”.
He added that the disgruntled MSPs had never supported his leadership.
And he insisted that he would be leading the party into the election on a platform of “building a National Care Service, establishing a quality Jobs Guarantee scheme and reviving Scotland’s economy with a Green New Deal”.
‘Internal faction fight’
Mr Leonard added: “If any party representative thinks an internal faction fight is more important than this agenda, then they will have to answer to party members and the voters whom we serve”.
He took over the leadership from Kezia Dugdale in 2017 – but there have been concerns about his performance from some senior party figures ever since.
Opinion polls suggest the party is trailing a distant third behind the SNP and Scottish Conservatives ahead of the election next May.
In his resignation statement, Mr Kelly said that Mr Leonard’s polling ratings were particularly low – even among the party’s own supporters.
He added: “Such poor ratings would produce a catastrophic result from which the party would struggle to recover.
“I have no confidence in your ability to shape the party’s message, strategy and organisation. I know that this is a view shared by other parliamentarians, party members and indeed many members of the public.
“It is clear that after nearly three years in charge you are not able to take the party forward. I firmly and sincerely believe that it is in the best interests of the party that you stand down as leader.”
His views were echoed by Ms Marra, who told The Times that the party risked “catastrophe” if it did not change course.
She described Mr Leonard, who was seen as being a close ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as “utterly committed to the party, the cause and is liked by everyone”.
But she added: “Richard is a stalwart of our party but he cannot lead us. That’s the unavoidable truth and change is our best hope.
“Richard’s leadership was tied from the start to the disaster of Jeremy Corbyn’s project. It remains so in the public’s view and they simply will not give the party a hearing as things stand.
“We need new energy, a new approach and to turn a new page.”
A third MSP, Daniel Johnson, tweeted his support for Ms Marra and Mr Kelly – saying: “It is time to recognise the situation we are in and for Richard to step down.”
Mr Johnson said he had attempted to raise his concerns and make constructive suggestions but claimed that these had gone unheeded, and there had been no change in approach or performance.
He added: “Continuing like this will be disastrous for our party and is why I no longer have confidence in Richard Leonard’s leadership.”
However, Mr Leonard was backed by Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who is also on the left of the party.
Mr Findlay tweeted that the colleagues who were calling for Mr Leonard’s head were “pathetic” and guilty of “treachery with a snarl”.