Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar is considering standing for the Scottish Labour leadership after the shock resignation of Richard Leonard.
Sources expect Sarwar to go for the post in a bid to reverse two decades of decline for the party.
Health spokeswoman Monica Lennon is also weighing up her options.
Leonard, a left-wing supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, resigned on Thursday after leading his party for more than three years.
His resignation, which followed a series of election flops, leaves Scottish Labour a small window to elect a successor ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
Leonard quit after declaring that continued speculation about his leadership had become a “distraction”.
His decision leaves the party looking for their 10th leader in the devolution era.
In the same period, only three people – Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and John Swinney – have led the SNP.
Although there is a desire in some quarters of the party to unite behind one figure, a contest could take place.
Sarwar, a Labour moderate who lost to Leonard in 2017, is said to be open to another run and is taking soundings from colleagues.
An insider said: “Anas is being actively encouraged to stand by people from across the Labour movement, and there’s a clear desire to move quickly to have a new leader. He’s clearly the best person to rebuild our party.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Dave Stewart is backing Sarwar. He said: “I’ve encouraged him to stand and I hope he does.
“He is a very accomplished parliamentary performer who has been, of course, our depute leader in the past and has obviously good experience at both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.”
Lennon was responsible for world-leading legislation being passed on period poverty.
Asked by the BBC if she would be interested in running, the Central Scotland MSP said: “I would say that I am ruling nothing in and nothing out at this stage. I am listening to members and colleagues, and I am having discussions with them.”
Ged Killen, a former Labour MP, said she was “one of the leading lights in the party just now”.
He added: “I think she is untarnished by these internal battles and has proven herself to be one of the most effective MSPs in Holyrood in a really short time. So I do think she could be a unity candidate.”
Meanwhile, Leonard ally Neil Findlay has accused senior party figures and donors of undermining the departed leader at a secret meeting this week.
The left-wing MSP said: “It was made clear that no money would be donated unless Leonard was removed and Anas Sarwar installed as leader.
“This was, I understand, reported to (Keir) Starmer who then called Richard and asked him to stand down. If he refused, the plan was to have a vote of no confidence at the party’s weekend executive meeting.”
Findlay also wrote in the Tribune article: “We have to end the arrogant, destructive behaviour of a small, self-entitled group whose time has long passed and rebuild the party from the bottom up.
“Those with a track record of leaking stories, briefing journalists against colleagues, sniping, using their staff to attack the party and trashing everything we do have to be called out.
“We need a new generation of leader to come forward to rebuild our party as one of democratic socialism, devo max and justice.”
The party’s governing executive will meet today to agree a timetable for the leadership process.
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie will stand in as leader but is not expected to seek the job permanently.
-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk