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Labour conference: All we learned as Anas Sarwar pitches beyond central belt

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar set out his vision for Scotland as he promises a jobs-first economic overhaul.

His opening speech at the event was a personal address to the country he hopes to win over to become first minister.

Here’s everything he said on unifying the party, what drives him as a politician, how he wants to win over voters from rival parties and rooting out Russian influence in Scotland.

Labour unified beyond Sarwar

The Scottish Labour boss was greeted with a positive reception at the party’s first in-person conference for three years.

It’s clear the party has moved on from their pre-election struggles last year when Mr Sarwar first took up the post as the crowd rallied behind him.

The Holyrood Labour boss sang the praises of Westminster leader Keir Starmer and the people in room appeared satisfied they have a pair to rally behind.

Sarwar’s past experience drives his agenda

The Glasgow MSP is seen as a central belt figure but he he was keen to draw on his northern Scottish background.

His uncle arrived in Scotland in the 1940s and built a life in Lossiemouth after he fell in love with the country.

This is key to his attempt to connect with rural voters and people in places such as Aberdeen and Dundee, where Labour once did well.

He promised to come up with a plan for the economy and protect jobs after oil and gas.

Mr Sarwar earlier said the route to power runs through the north-east.

In the room he said: “We must reform our energy market for the future, prioritising affordability, jobs and security.”

Council elections in May are a dress rehearsal

Mr Sarwar has been leader for a year, and he has a few weeks to get sorted for the council elections.

Most of his pitch looked far beyond that to the next Holyrood election, where he hopes to win the ultimate prize.

But he emphasised that winning back seats at the next Westminster election to help Keir Starmer become prime minister will be crucial to their future election hopes.

Mr Sarwar said that his Westminster counterpart can help bring back “integrity” and “decency” to Downing Street.

Labour wants to root out Russian cash

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray spoke before Mr Sarwar in a moving set-piece which saw the room stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

The Edinburgh Labour MP called for new measures to root out Kremlin cash north of the border and said the proposed Economic Crime Bill should be amended to ensure it backdates to 2004 in Scotland.

He said: “We won’t accept criminals getting away with laundering plutocrat money just because it takes a bit of work to dig through records.

“Labour will introduce amendments in Parliament to backdate the application of this law in Scotland on the same terms as England and Wales.”

Listen to our interview with Anas Sarwar on The Stooshie politics podcast here:

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