Scottish Labour’s newly elected leader has said the party is “fighting for their lives” in May’s Holyrood election.
Anas Sarwar, who won the post on Saturday with more than 57% of the vote, said he recognised the party has a “mountain to climb” to win back the trust of voters that made them the ruling party in the early years of devolution.
However, the party now sits third in the polls, lagging well behind the Tories in second place, with the SNP enjoying a nearly 30% lead in both constituency and regional votes, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for STV this week.
Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Mr Sarwar said: “You’ve had political leaders come on before and think they’ve got to act macho and spread their shoulders and claim that we’re on the cusp of a Labour government or a Labour first minister.
“I’m not going to do that, I’m going to be honest and say we’re in a really bad place.”
He added: “The most recent poll had us on 14%, I think we’re fighting for our survival, I think we’re fighting for relevance in Scotland, I think we’re fighting to be a credible opposition.
“I hope that having got ourselves back on the pitch and off our knees we can build the five years that follow to make ourselves not just a credible opposition, but a credible alternative so we can have a Labour government in the future.”
Speaking earlier on the BBC’s Sunday Show Mr Sarwar laid out what he thinks the party has done wrong, saying: “We haven’t been on the pitch.
“Forget about doing the wrong moves on the pitch, playing the wrong passes or having one misplaced shot, we haven’t been on the pitch in recent times and that is not acceptable.”
The new leader said the party had spent more time looking “inward rather than outward”.
“We looked like we were talking about the past rather than focusing on the future,” he said.
“We haven’t been good enough and that’s why I’m going to work day and night to change that.
“I’m going to work day and night to get the Labour Party back on the pitch.
“I’m going to work day and night for us to survive as a movement, be relevant to the lives of people in Scotland, be a credible opposition and one day get the Labour Party back to where it belongs – being a party of government.”
Mr Sarwar said he wanted to bring “hope and change” back to Scottish politics, adding that, while the “Twittersphere” may be talking about independence, the average Scot is not.
“What people in their homes right now care about is keeping themselves safe, when they’re going to get a vaccine, their child’s education or mental health, a cancelled operation or not getting their cancer diagnosis if they missed out on a screening programme, protecting our planet for future generations… whether they’re going to get back to work after this pandemic is over,” he said.
“These are the big issues that people are worried about right now at home and they are the issues we as a political establishment have got to talk about.”