key by-election battle can give Scottish Labour momentum right up to the Holyrood elections in 2026, Anas Sarwar has said.
The Scottish Labour leader said residents in Rutherglen and Hamilton West can now get closure after “three years” without “adequate representation”.
The constituency’s by-election has been confirmed for October 5 after the seat was vacated by former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier following a successful recall petition after her conviction for breaching Covid restrictions in 2020.
It is expected to be an important battleground ahead of the UK general election, which is expected next year, with the SNP’s Katy Loudon taking on Labour’s Michael Shanks.
I want to earn the right for people to regard me as being competitive to become first minister come 2026
Welcoming the date, Mr Sarwar said: “I think it’s fantastic that we finally have a date and that it’s going to be as soon as practicably possible from this moment, given than this community has not had adequate representation for the last three years.
“That has been a failure, of course, on Margaret Ferrier’s part, but actually a failure on the SNP’s part as well.”
On his party’s chances of winning, he said: “This is a significant by-election. There’s no escaping that, but we are not complacent.”
Speaking on how a win would impact the party ahead of next year’s general election, he said: “We’ve got to continue that momentum, but that momentum is there for a purpose.
“For far too long now the people of Scotland and the UK have been let down by two failing governments.”
Mr Sarwar previously hit out at First Minister Humza Yousaf’s leadership so far, as he said his opponent was “not up to the top job”.
But he told the PA news agency a win at the upcoming by-election will show that he can be considered for the job of first minister in the 2026 Scottish Parliament elections.
He said: “I think we have earned the right to be listened to again. We’re now earning the right, I think, to be supported again, but we’ve still go a long way to go.
“And I want to earn the right for people to regard me as being competitive to become first minister come 2026.
“We’re making good progress on that but that’s the ultimate end game, it’s not just delivering a UK Labour government but delivering a Labour government here in Scotland.”