Anas Sarwar has confirmed his bid to succeed Richard Leonard as the next Scottish Labour leader.
The Glasgow MSP used an article for the Observer online to set out his stall in the leadership race, which was triggered by Mr Leonard’s resignation on Thursday.
Late on Saturday night, he tweeted to say the country “needs political leadership that will bring people together” and that he wants “to rebuild Scottish Labour, and then rebuild Scotland”.
In his column, Mr Sarwar wrote: “Over the past few years, I have gained a new perspective on our politics and realised that the things we argue about mean little to people’s lives.
“We spend too much time highlighting our differences, rather than focusing on what unites us.
“I firmly believe we cannot go back to society as it was before the pandemic – insecure work, hollowed- out public services, an underfunded health service, and the constant focus on another independence referendum when there’s far more important things we need to be dealing with.
“Scottish Labour can compete again if we offer a positive alternative – a plan to heal our wounds, to reunite our people and to rebuild our country.”
Now more than ever, our country needs political leadership that will bring people together.
I want to rebuild Scottish Labour, and then rebuild Scotland.
That work starts now.https://t.co/iee4BZzvUt
— Anas Sarwar (@AnasSarwar) January 16, 2021
The 37-year-old also discussed facing racism and fighting prejudice in the article, adding: “Speaking out against the racism I’ve faced was the hardest thing I’ve done in politics. My family faced death threats as a result.
“But I’ve used that experience to spend my time in our communities working on what unites us and bringing people together – I have listened and I have learnt.
“I want to bring that same approach to our Labour movement so that we can rebuild our party and rebuild our country.”
After news broke of Mr Leonard’s resignation, Mr Sarwar paid tribute to his former boss, saying: “Richard has led our party through one of the most difficult times in our history.
“He is Labour to his core, and we are all grateful for his service.
“I know he will continue to fight for a fairer, more just and more equal society today, tomorrow and long into the future.”
Earlier on Saturday the party’s executive agreed to a condensed timescale for any contest with the Holyrood elections less than four months away.
The last Scottish Labour leadership contest in 2017 – when Mr Leonard defeated Mr Sarwar – took two-and-a-half months.
Other candidates have until midnight on Sunday to declare their intention to run and will require support from at least four of the party’s MSPs or its sole Scottish MP by midday on the following Tuesday to be formally nominated.
Party members and affiliated supporters will be able to cast their votes from Tuesday February 9 until ballots close on Friday February 26 with the new leader to be announced the following day.
Scottish Labour’s chairwoman Cara Hilton said: “The Scottish Executive Committee today agreed that a new leader of the Scottish Labour Party will be elected by a ballot of party members and affiliated trades union members in February.
“The new leader will be announced on February 27 and will lead Scottish Labour into the Scottish Parliament election with a fresh energy to carry Labour’s message and take the fight to the Tories and the SNP.”