Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar has been elected as Scottish Labour’s new leader – just 10 weeks before the Holyrood elections.
The party was forced to vote for a new leader after Richard Leonard’s shock resignation in January, claiming his decision to quit was in its “best interests”.
Mr Sarwar, who lost against Mr Leonard in 2017, was quick to throw his hat into the ring, followed by Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon.
The Glasgow MSP won the vote with 57.56%, while Ms Lennon took 42.4%.
Mr Sarwar, who was an NHS dentist, is the first ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK after his grandparents emigrated to Scotland from Pakistan.
The father of three said it was the “greatest honour of my life” to be elected leader but said he knows Labour “has a lot of work to do to win back your trust”.
“Because if we’re brutally honest, you haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve,” he said.
“With rising injustice, inequality and division, I’m sorry we haven’t been good enough.”
He promised to work “day and night to change that”.
Mr Sarwar said it was “in my blood” to bring about change, saying that his grandfather came to Lossiemouth 75 years ago “with nothing, searching for a better future”.
He said his grandfather found that and instead of returning to Pakistan, which he was meant to do, he brought his family to Scotland.
“He would never have imagined that his grandson would one day be elected to lead the Labour movement in Scotland,” Mr Sarwar said.
Mr Sarwar was elected as Glasgow Central’s MSP in 2010, taking over from his father, Mohammed Sarwar, who was the UK’s first-ever Muslim MP and became governor of Punjab in Pakistan in 2018.
He is a committed Brownite, mentioning Gordon Brown in his acceptance speech, and has criticised both Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour is in third place in the polls ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, firmly behind the Conservatives while the SNP is in the lead.
In the 2019 election, Labour recorded their worst result in Scotland since 1910, reducing their seats to just one.
Scotland’s parliament is currently in the throes of a scandal in the wake of former first minister Alex Salmond’s evidence to the parliament’s inquiry into the handling of complaints against him.
Ahead of the election, Mr Sarwar will have to deal with an uptick in support for independence against the background of Brexit and the pandemic.
During his campaign, he said he was opposed to Scottish independence and urged parties supporting a split from the rest of the UK to put the issue aside and focus on the economic recovery from COVID-19.