Two leading left-wing MSPs have ruled themselves out of the race to succeed Kezia Dugdale as the new leader of Scottish Labour.

Both Alex Rowley, who was Ms Dugdale's deputy and is now interim Scottish Labour leader, and former leadership challenger Neil Findlay declared they would not put themselves forward for the position.

Richard Leonard, a former GMB trade union organiser who was elected to Holyrood in 2016, and Anas Sarwar, Labour's Scottish health spokesman, are now thought to be the most likely candidates to take on the job.

Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson has said he is "pretty unlikely" to stand. 

“I’m not intending to stand, but being a politician, I’m not completely ruling it out," he said.

Glasgow MSP James Kelly is also understood to have ruled himself out of the race.

It comes after Ms Dugdale's shock resignation on Tuesday evening when she announced she was stepping down with immediate effect, saying her party needed "a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate" to take it into the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

Despite her differences with Jeremy Corbyn - against whom she campaigned in the 2016 Labour leadership contest - Ms Dugdale denied suggestions she had quit before being pushed by the left wing.

She insisted she left the party "in better shape than I found it" after taking on the job in the wake of the 2015 general election, which saw Labour lose all but one of its MPs in Scotland while the SNP enjoyed a landslide victory.

Ms Dugdale, 36, is the third Scottish Labour leader to have resigned since the 2014 independence referendum, with predecessors Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy both having stood down.

Mr Sarwar and Iain Gray have also served as acting leader since the vote on Scotland's future.

She said the death earlier in 2017 of her "dear friend" Gordon Aikman, a Labour activist and motor neurone disease campaigner, had "taught me a lot about how to live".

Ms Dugdale stated: "His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference.

"He taught me how precious and short life was, and never to waste a moment."

Scottish Labour's executive committee will meet on Saturday September 9 to consider the timetable and process for selecting their next leader.

Mr Rowley said: "I can confirm I do not intend to run for leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

"Kezia Dugdale has done fantastic work helping to rebuild the Labour Party in Scotland and whoever succeeds her has the chance to be First Minister of Scotland and make a transformative difference to people's lives in Scotland.

"I look forward to working with the next leader to deliver a government for Scotland and the UK that will work for the many and not the few."

Mr Rowley, who was previously election agent for the former prime minister Gordon Brown, had previously backed Mr Corbyn to be Labour leader - unlike Ms Dugdale, who supported Owen Smith when he mounted a challenge for the post in 2016.

The left-wing Campaign for Socialism group within the party said that after Ms Dugdale's resignation Labour in Scotland "must now look to the future and towards the exciting and engaging politics that Jeremy Corbyn's election as UK leader has delivered".

Mr Findlay, a Lothian MSP who ran in a previous Scottish leadership contest and who is closely allied to Mr Corbyn, also made it clear he would not be standing.

He said: "'I will not be putting put my name forward in this election. I wish Kezia and those who may seek to succeed her the very best for the future.''

Having previously been deputy leader, Ms Dugdale succeeded Mr Murphy when he stepped down in the wake of Labour's humiliating defeat in the 2015 general election, which saw the party lose 40 of the 41 seats it had held at Westminster.

Mr Corbyn paid tribute to her, saying she had taken on the job "at one of the most difficult times in the history of the Scottish Labour Party" and had played an important role in "rebuilding" the party.

Labour managed to win back some of the seats it had lost to Nicola Sturgeon's SNP in the June 2017 snap general election, with the party now having seven MPs in Scotland.

With the constitution having defined Scottish politics in recent years, Ms Dugdale has sought to give Labour a distinct position and the party now supporting a federal UK.

She also pressed Scottish ministers to use new powers over income tax north of the border to raise extra revenue, calling for a return of the 50p top tax rate for high earners and a 1p rise in the basic rate.

Her resignation came the day after her birthday, with Ms Dugdale saying being leader had been ''a difficult but fulfilling challenge''.

In her letter to Scottish Labour Party chairwoman Linda Stewart, she stated: "I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.''