Anas Sarwar formally launched his campaign to become the next Scottish Labour leader tonight with a pledge to deliver equality and opportunity for all Scots.
Addressing supporters at Gorbals Parish Church - in the heart of Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow South constituency - Sarwar said the party was “parking our tanks on the First Minister’s lawn” as he vowed to win the next Holyrood elections in 2021.
The MSP said he was the best equipped candidate to lead the party back to power north of the border, with promises to improve education, the NHS and end the gender pay gap.
Mr Sarwar’s rival for the leadership, left-wing MSP Richard Leonard, will launch his own campaign on Saturday. The contest was triggered by the unexpected resignation of Kezia Dugdale last month.
“I’m standing because I believe I can unite our party and help deliver a Labour government across the UK with Jeremy Corbyn as our Prime Minister,” said Mr Sarwar.
“I will be a Scottish Labour leader for all of Scotland and there will be no no-go areas for our party.”
He continued: “Despite being a Glasgow MSP, despite representing one of the poorest communities in our country, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP has presided over £400 million of cuts to this city.
“Half of the children in this constituency are deprived. That is a national disgrace. And yet Nicola Sturgeon refuses to use the powers we have to help them.”
Mr Sarwar, the son of successful businessman and former Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar, said there were some in the party and media who wanted “to make this contest about my family”.
He added: “Some of you might have heard about my father. He came here in his mid-20s. He started selling eggs and cheese to shops, and went on to open his own shop in Maryhill and run a successful business, He too was passionate about the Labour Party. It was this party, this city, and this nation that helped him to be elected as the UK’s first Muslim MP.”
Mr Sarwar, who enjoys a far higher public profile than his leadership rival, made no reference in his speech to recent media reports that his family’s cash-and-carry business is paying some staff below the real living wage, which is currently £8.45 an hour.
Both leadership campaigns have until October 9 to recruit new party members at the full price of £48, or registered and affiliated supporters, who will be allowed to vote for a £12 fee.
A result is expected to be announced on November 18.