UK Labour government must deliver for Scotland before 2026 election, says Sarwar

Anas Sarwar said Scotland is not there just to deliver Labour MPs for a UK Labour government.

Christopher McKeon
Monday 09 October 2023 12:52 BST
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his party would be driven by ‘hope, humility and hard work’ (Andy Buchanan/PA)
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his party would be driven by ‘hope, humility and hard work’ (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Labour must have a “delivery plan for Scotland”, the party’s leader in Holyrood has said as he sets his eyes on the 2026 Scottish elections.

Anas Sarwar told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference on Monday: “Scotland is not there to deliver Labour MPs just so we can get a UK Labour government.

“Scotland is there to fight Scotland’s corner and deliver Scottish Labour MPs who can change people’s lives in Scotland because they recognise that through transformative change and a policy agenda, things can get better for people in Scotland.

“That delivery plan for Scotland has got to be front and centre of that change going into the next two elections.”

Mr Sarwar’s party has been buoyed by the result of last week’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, which saw Labour secure more than 50% of the vote and take back a seat won by the SNP in both 2015 and 2019.

At the same fringe event, pollster Peter Kellner described Rutherglen as a “microcosm” of Scottish politics and suggested the “volatility” of politics north of the border meant Labour could win between 15 and 35 Scottish seats at the next general election.

Such a result would help ease Sir Keir Starmer’s passage to Downing Street, which Mr Sarwar said would in turn help Labour to become the largest party at the Holyrood elections in 2026.

He said: “It’s pretty clear that our success and our fate goes hand in glove.

“There is no route to Keir Starmer being prime minister unless we make significant gains in Scotland, and there is no route to us winning the Scottish Parliament election in 2026 unless we elect a Labour government in 2024 and Keir Starmer becomes prime minister.”

Mr Sarwar added he and Sir Keir were “already working on that delivery plan” while he regarded the next general election as a “staging post for 2026, not the other way round”.

Looking ahead to that election, he said the SNP had become “arrogant” and “out of touch” in the same way Labour had before losing control of Holyrood in 2007, while Labour had become “the party of change”, working to persuade people rather than hold on to their base.

He added: “Three words will drive us: hope, humility and hard work.

“On hope, we are not saying vote for us because the SNP and the Tories deserve to lose. We have got to persuade people why we deserve to win and that’s why setting out that positive case, that positive alternative is so important.

“Second, humility. You’ve got the arrogance from the SNP, you’ve got the arrogance and the hubris of the Tories. We’re not going to get into that, we’re going to reach out and do the hard work and be on the streets doing the hard work to win people’s trust and win their support.

“And third, hard work, because you shouldn’t win by default, you should win by deserving to win and you only deserve to win if you put in the hard yards and do the hard work.”

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