SCOTTISH Labour’s top official has resigned on the eve of the party’s Holyrood election campaign after barely a year in post.

Michael Sharpe, a close ally and defender of leader Richard Leonard, announced he was stepping down because of the demands of a young family.

His exit is a blow to Mr Leonard as his party struggles in the polls and has become financially dependent on the UK Labour party to keep it afloat.

It could also expose the Mr Leonard to trouble in the ranks, as Ms Sharpe was instrumental in blocking a leadership challenge against him in the autumn.

After four of Mr Leonard’s MSPs called on him to quit, Mr Sharpe controversially claimed there was no mechanism to forcibly remove a sitting Scottish Labour leader, despite the party's rules allowing challenges to the UK leader.

Mr Sharpe was brought into the top job by Mr Leonard in October 2019.

He replaced respected general secretary Brian Roy, who had quit after almost five years in post amid a bout of internal feuding over the party’s stance on independence. 

In a statement on social media, Mr Sharpe said: “After deep consideration and discussions with my family, I will be leaving my post as Scottish General Secretary.

“The Labour Party has always been - and will continue to be - a cherished part of my life. 

“It’s been an honour top work with the party in Holyrood for nine years before joining as Scottish General Secretary.

“However, with elections to the Scottish Parliament five months away, I realise that I cannot give my young family and the party I love the commitment that they each deserve.”  

Mr Leonard said: "I would like to put on record my thanks and appreciation to Michael Sharpe for all he has done for the Scottish Labour Party. 

"For over a decade Michael has dedicated his life to the Party. 

His extensive political acumen and policy knowledge and skills will be greatly missed but I know he will continue to campaign for the party in the future. I respect his decision to take a step back from the high demands of the role of General Secretary in order to focus on his young family. 

"I wish him, Laura and Maxton all the very best for the next chapter in their lives."