Scottish Labour leader resigns "in best interests" of party

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Scottish First Minister Sturgeon speaks at parliament in Edinburgh

LONDON (Reuters) - Richard Leonard resigned as Scottish Labour leader on Thursday, saying it was in the best interests of the party for him to stand down before an election in Scotland expected to take place in May.

Opposition Labour's fortunes have flagged in Scotland and some in the party have long called for Leonard, who has struggled to raise his profile in the nation, to stand down to increase the party's chances.

An opinion poll published on Thursday found the Scottish National Party is on course to win a record majority in the election for Scotland's devolved parliament, which would signal a new push for independence by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"I have come to the conclusion it is in the best interests of the party that I step aside as leader of Scottish Labour with immediate effect," said Leonard.

"This was not an easy decision, but after three years I feel it is the right one for me and for the party."

Labour leader Keir Starmer thanked Leonard for his work.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by WIlliam James)