Fundamental change is needed across Scotland, but the focus must be on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
Sarwar, speaking to STV after his party took 22 seats in the Holyrood election, acknowledged that maintaining the status quo is not going to work.
However, he said he believes that the Scottish electorate wants MSPs to focus on the recovery, rather than an independence referendum.
“I think it’s undoubtedly the case that the country is deeply divided on the constitutional question, I think this election result proves that, the country on a knife edge in terms of two entrenched camps,” said Sarwar.
“But the big part that I think we’ve lost is the focus on the recovery and coming through the Parliament.
“Now, I understand that the Tories have talked a lot today about the recovery, they’ve talked in passing during the campaign about recovery.
“I know Nicola Sturgeon the latter part of the campaign spoke about her focus will be on the recovery.
“I’m actually going to hold them to it because we still have huge challenges facing our country and I emphasised in a speech today that I’m making a big and open offer to every political party, but in particular to the SNP as the governing party, that if you are true to wanting to focus on that recovery, let’s set aside the one big issue we disagree on and let’s work together on the issues that we agree on to build that fairer recovery and I want to push them further.
“I want to push them further on job creation, I want to push them further on the NHS plan, I want to push them further on closing the attainment gap and our education system, so we can come through what has been the most difficult year and build a fairer nation.”
Sarwar said that there is a “deep challenge” over the divides that exist across Scotland.
He said: “One of the big challenges the Labour Party faced was, yes, we championed devolution, yes, we created the Scottish Parliament, but it didn’t really look like we came to terms with devolution ourselves.
“And I accept we do have a huge challenge facing our country, we have an immediate challenge around the recovery, but we also have a deep challenge around the divides in our country.
He continued: “Look, you’re going to see the entrenched no people and the entrenched yes voters saying that this is either a vindication of, ‘we must have a referendum, let’s go for it’, and you’re going to have on the other side people saying, ‘well look, a majority of people didn’t vote that way, we shouldn’t have one’.”
The Glasgow MSP said his party would “not shy away” from discussions about changes across Scotland.
He said: “I think what the electorate is saying is, ‘not now, focus on the recovery, not a referendum’.
“So, we’ve got to focus on that recovery, but I also recognise that the status quo is not going to work.
“We need fundamental change across Scotland, but also across the UK and the Labour Party is not going to shy away from being part of that discussion and conversation.”
He added: “If we’re staying true to our word that we’re going to focus on the recovery, let’s do that, let’s focus on the recovery because I don’t think it’s going to be as quick as recovery as both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon would like you to believe.”