Labour leader Anas Sarwar to put name on ballot paper in presidential style election

Anas Sarwar is to put his name on the ballot paper in May's election, in a rebranding move for Scottish Labour which will set him head-to-head in a personality-led, presidential style battle against Nicola Sturgeon.

Both First Minister Sturgeon and outgoing Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have previously been named on ballot papers, but Scottish Labour has not done so.

Meanwhile, Sarwar, who is running on a "unity not division" ticket, admitted he has never spoken to new Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, dismissing Ross's suggestion of a Labour-Tory alliance against the SNP as "playground politics".

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The provisional slogan “Anas Sarwar – Labour’s National Recovery Plan” still has to be approved by the Electoral Commission.

He said: "I want to unite Scotland around a national recovery plan that’s going to build a stronger and fairer Scotland.

“We want to put the national recovery plan front and centre of this election campaign and demonstrate confidence as well – I know Nicola Sturgeon has put her name on the ballot paper, I know in previous elections Ruth Davidson has put her name on the ballot paper, I want to express confidence in putting my own name on the ballot paper and give people the direct choice between going back to the old arguments or a new kind of politics, with a different kind of leader and a different focus for our parliament as we come through and recover from Covid.

“This is a very different kind of election and we are not going to have the same level of interaction, so the burden of the campaign is naturally going to fall all on to the individual party leaders.”

He said his party would offer an alternative for Scots who were faced with "a failing government on one side and a game playing, lacking in ideas opposition on the other”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar promotes his party's election message: a National Recovery Plan beside the statue of Donald Dewar, in Glasgow while on the local election campaign trail. Picture: PA

A Survation poll published today showed Scottish Labour in second place in the election run behind the SNP with 24 seats.

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He admitted he has had no personal contact with Ross, a day after he paid tribute to outgoing Tory leader Ruth Davidson in parliament. He said he had known Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon “a very very long time”.

He said: “I actually don’t think I’ve ever spoken to Douglas Ross. I think it tells you something around the no-confidence vote, that if they were actually serious about it and weren’t just using it for political gain, perhaps they would have spoken to other political parties and other political leaders.

" I don’t know Douglas, I’m sure he is a perfectly pleasant and nice human being, I look forward to meeting him when he comes back to the Scottish Parliament. I have obviously met him before, but never really had a proper dialogue and exchange with him, but in the same spirit, I am happy to have human relationships and personal relationships with people from other political parties.”

Sarwar admitted that the “Labour brand has had its problems”, but insisted that the Scottish Labour manifesto was "made in Scotland for Scotland".

He said he supported the idea of a more progressive taxation system to pay for the “big things we want to do” and added that he wanted to reform parliamentary systems to make them more fair, including introducing elected conveners.

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