Anas Sarwar has admitted that he didn’t realise how “hollowed out” Scottish Labour was before he became leader, as he said the party raised just £250 in the year before he took over.
The Glasgow MSP was named as Scottish Labour leader in February last year following the resignation of Richard Leonard.
He took the reins during a difficult period for the party, with less than three months to go until the Scottish Parliament election.
At the vote in May that year, Scottish Labour won 22 seats, down two on their previous result at the Holyrood election in 2016.
Speaking to Matt Chorley on Times Radio, Sarwar acknowledged the challenges facing the party as it looks to regain ground in Scotland.
“The Labour Party’s not been good enough, that’s why we’ve kept losing elections,” he said.
“Anyone that tells you, ‘we’ve been great, it’s the punters that have been wrong’, is absolutely wrong.
“The public are right, we were wrong. We have not been good enough and that’s why we’ve kept losing elections, and we have got to be worthy of people’s support again.
“That’s partly, and this is the challenge I set to every figure in the Labour Party, is, yes, we’ve got to be better at exposing the failures of the SNP, but exposing the failures of the SNP in itself is not enough.
“We have got to demonstrate to people the kind of alternative we can have and the difference it would make to people’s lives so they positively vote Labour, not just negatively vote against the Tories or the SNP.”
The Scottish Labour leader outlined the hard work required in his role, as well as highlighting the desperate state the party had been in.
“It’s bloody hard work, it’s a lot of time. I always knew it was going to be a big task and a big challenge,” Sarwar said of his job.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t quite grip or grasp how I think hollowed out we were as an organisation, not just in terms of our political message and our political result, as an organisation I hadn’t really grasped how hollowed out we were.
“I mean, the example I’ve used before is I think in the 12 months leading up to me becoming leader, I think the entire Scottish Labour Party fundraised £250.”
He added: “That is not a professional, forward-looking organisation.”
The Scottish Labour leader explained that in the last year, the party has now raised almost £1m.