Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said his party is “ready for government”, in a rallying cry to activists.
Speaking on the first day of his party’s conference in Edinburgh, Sarwar made a direct plea to Conservative and SNP voters ahead of the next election, urging them to put their trust in Labour.
Focusing on nationalists in the wake of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation this week in his speech, which is understood to be the launch of his party’s campaign for the next election, Sarwar said: “In the weeks ahead, the SNP will only be talking to themselves, about themselves.
“But our country, now more than ever, requires politicians focused on delivering the change Scotland needs.”
Labour has, he told delegates, “still got a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the people”, adding: “I’m proud we are once again a party ready for government.”
The Glasgow MSP said Labour is “grown up, reaching out and ready for government”.
The next general election, Sarwar said, would be a “generation-defining moment in our history”, adding: “This is our moment to build a country where everyone is entitled to dignity.”
Sarwar also made entreaties to Tory and SNP voters as his party took aim at both Downing Street and Bute House.
“My message to those who have previously voted Conservative is: Don’t reward their incompetence with your vote,” he said.
“Don’t give the SNP what they so desperately want – put your trust in us.”
Making a “direct appeal” to SNP voters, the Scottish Labour leader said: “We understand your desire for change – we share it.
“We recognise your desire to get rid of the Tories – we share it.
“We know you dream of a brighter future – it’s a dream we share.”
Claiming “this isn’t as good as it gets”, he told SNP voters: “Let’s come together to boot the Tories out of Downing Street.”
Sarwar also used his speech to unveil a number of policies that would be enforced if Labour wins the 2026 Scottish election, including a “radical” policy to buy up empty homes and sell them off for £1 to those on low incomes and first-time buyers.
He also announced plans for a tax on Amazon-style warehouses.
Earlier, deputy leader Jackie Baillie announced plans to revamp the health service by amalgamating the 14 regional health boards into three, cutting a number of chief executives and other senior managers, human resources and public relations and saving an estimated £20m in the process.
She told the conference: “As the performance of our NHS has declined, the amount of bureaucracy and the number of senior managers has soared – that is the wrong priority.
“That’s why today I can announce that Scottish Labour will cut the red tape, and reduce the number of territorial boards to three and we will merge the special boards.
“By doing this, we will push decision-making down to the local level, we’ll empower clinicians and we’ll focus on supporting frontline staff.
“Just think, £20m would pay for over 700 nurses – I know which one I would prefer.”