The new leader of Scottish Labour said that he was in place for a long-term plan of aiming to be a legitimate and credible candidate for First Minister at the 2026 Scottish Parliamentary elections.
It means both Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, and Mr Sarwar have essentially conceded the election to the SNP ahead of polling day, with both parties focused on stopping the nationalists winning a majority.
Asked during a virtual press conference on Friday whether he believed he will be First Minister after May 6, Mr Sarwar said his first priority was “survival, relevance, credible opposition” and stopping an SNP majority.
He said: "I don’t think anyone is, recently certainly, arguing that the SNP looks like they are on course for a majority.
"I want to stop the SNP getting a majority and I want Labour to be a strong opposition.
"I am not doing what previous Scottish Labour leaders have done when they’ve got elected and we’ve had a lot of them in recent times, is coming to the job, broaden the shoulders, act macho, say everything is fixed, everything is fine, we’re on the verge of returning a Labour First Minister and a Labour Scottish Government again.”
Acknowledging the mountain Scottish Labour must climb to become an electoral force in Scotland again, Mr Sarwar said he hopes the party will be “on the pitch again” come polling day.
He said: "Three days before I was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party, we were on 14 per cent of the polls.
"I see my job as a long-term project and plan.
"I want to make sure that the Labour party is back off the sidelines and on the pitch again and I think we are starting to demonstrate that over the last 18 days.
"I want to demonstrate that we care about people, that we’re on their side and we’re talking about the issues that are relevant to them.”
Mr Sarwar said he knows he will not be First Minister in seven weeks’ time, saying he wants to be a credible candidate in five years’ time instead.
He said: "After May, I’m absolutely determined to make sure from the grassroots up we work day and night to give the people of Scotland the Labour party they deserve so we have the opportunity to serve.
"My quest and my mission – I’m not pretending I am going to be First Minister in seven weeks’ time, but I’m telling you I want to be in a place where I am a candidate to be First Minister in five years’ time so we can change Scotland and make it a fairer and stronger place.”
Sir Keir Starmer, UK Labour’s leader, added: “Anas has been in for less than three weeks and has already made a real difference.
"We can see a shift in the polls, not enough, but a shift, the beginnings of movement. We’ve seen energy and, most importantly, we have seen a clear mission and a focus on the recovery, which I think matters more than anything.”