Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley has resigned from the role amid claims about his conduct, the party has said.

Mr Rowley said he would stand aside over allegations published in The Scottish Sun from a former partner, who accused him of subjecting her to years of “emotional blackmail and abuse”.

The 49-year-old woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, said the Scots Labour chief “destroyed my life” and vowed to speak out in the wake of the torrent of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against politicians in Westminster and Holyrood.

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, who took over as acting leader in August following the shock resignation of Kezia Dugdale, has categorically denied the allegations.

Mr Rowley said in a statement: “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name.

“These allegations must be properly and thoroughly investigated in line with our party’s procedures – and I will refer myself to the party so such an investigation can take place.

“While that investigation is carried out, I will step aside as Deputy Leader, as well as Interim Leader, of the Scottish Labour Party.”

Mr Rowley had been due to stand aside at the culmination of the Scottish Labour leadership race on Saturday, with voting already underway to elect either left-wing MSP Richard Leonard or more moderate candidate Anas Sarwar, the party’s health spokesman.

A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “Alex Rowley has stood aside as Interim and Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and referred himself to the Party’s internal complaints procedure regarding allegations made against him.”

Former leader Ms Dugdale said the allegations were “serious and deeply concerning” and urged the party to suspend Mr Rowley while an investigation takes place.

She said: “I commend the bravery of all the women who have come forward with allegations against those in positions of power, and we owe them answers.

“Had I remained in the position of leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I would not have hesitated to suspend Alex Rowley from the party while these allegations are fully investigated.”

It comes amid ongoing challenges for the party north of the border, where Ms Dugdale became the third Scottish Labour leader to resign in the last three years.

All of the major Westminster parties have been plunged into controversy by the sexual harassment scandal, which prompted the resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon as well as investigations into several Tory and Labour MPs.

Meanwhile at Holyrood, childcare minister Mark McDonald apologised and stood down after being accused of inappropriate behaviour.