Labour leader Keir Starmer has admitted that the party needs to rebuild trust in Scotland and has a lot of work to do to regain ground north of the border.
The party is in disarray in Scotland, with an election to find a new leader taking place just months before May’s Holyrood elections.
Anas Sarwar is taking on Monica Lennon in the race triggered by Richard Leonard’s resignation as Scottish Labour leader.
Starmer said he would work with whoever won the Scottish Labour leadership election and insisted the party would be “utterly focused” on May’s Holyrood contest despite the internal battle.
“We have got a lot of work to do in Scotland, we have got to improve our position,” he said.
“I will be working with whoever becomes the leader, into those elections in May and beyond that.”
The Labour leader said, “we must rebuild trust, we must fight on the issues that really matter in Scotland”, highlighting health, the economy and the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be fighting on that terrain, we need to improve our lot in Scotland and I’m determined we’re going to do it.”
Asked whether Brexit made the arguments harder for pro-Union parties, he said: “We have left the EU, we have a trade agreement but we need to make that work. In Scotland, what matters more than anything is how we recover from Covid.
“There is a huge impact on health, public services, a really huge impact on jobs.”
Leonard’s resignation means Scottish Labour is looking for its fifth leader since the independence referendum in 2014.
Asked whether the contest was a distraction from May’s elections, Starmer said: “It’s a short competition, it will be done in six weeks, I will work with whoever emerges as the leader and we will be utterly focused on those elections in May.”