Scottish Labour must look outward to win elections and “change people’s lives”, leader Anas Sarwar has said.
Speaking at the party’s conference in Glasgow, he looked ahead to the next general election and May’s local authority vote as he urged the party to change its mindset.
Scottish Labour has been in decline in recent years, going from a coalition in administration at Holyrood before 2007 to third in the polls since 2016 behind the Tories.
But Sarwar has sought to reignite the party’s fortunes, stressing Labour is not simply a “debating society”.
He told delegates: “We don’t come to events like this just to talk about the issues we care about.
“We don’t change people’s lives by just debating the big issues.
“We only actually get to deliver on our values, only get to implement our ideas, and only get to change people’s lives if we win.
“We won’t win by talking to ourselves, about ourselves, or living off our past.
“I was 14 years old when we won (the general election) in 1997.
“Our children’s generation are not going to ask us why we created the NHS, they will ask how we saved it and made if fit for the future.
“They won’t praise us for halving child poverty, they will ask what we did to eradicate it.
“To win again we must embrace and own the future, not the past.
“We must focus on what we will achieve when we return to government.”
He concluded: “To win again, we must change again.”
Sarwar went on to stress the importance of activists engaging with, and persuading, voters of other parties to bring Labour back to power.
“We will not win if we only seek to speak to those who already vote for us,” he said.
“We have to speak to those who may be thinking about voting SNP, Tory, Lib Dem or Green and show them that we have changed, and prove to them that we are worthy of their support.
“That is how we build the future and win again.”
In an attempt to differentiate Labour from other parties in Scotland and the wider UK, Mr Sarwar said his party should “stop doing politics the way our opponents do it”.
He added: “Pitting Scot against Scot, Yes against No, Remain against Leave, Holyrood against Westminster.
“An obsession with the politics of the past, with no real answers for the future.
“That approach is out of touch, and they are out of ideas.
“The best hope, the only hope, of building the future Scotland deserves is the Labour Party.”
Both the Scottish and UK Governments, Mr Sarwar said, “want to force you to pick as side”.
He added: “Well, the Labour Party I lead will always be on your side.”
In a speech that stretched to almost an hour, the Scottish Labour leader announced two new policy proposals: free personal care for every Scot over the age of 65, and a Bill to be lodged at Holyrood that would create an “independent public advocate” who could act on behalf of families of people who died in public scandals.
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