Scottish election 2021: Anas Sarwar labels Scotland the ‘best country in the world’, but insists it can be better

Anas Sarwar has labelled Scotland the “best country in the world”, but insisted it can be better.

Speaking to The Scotsman in the second part of our exclusive election video series, On The HolyRoad, the Scottish Labour leader discussed his passion for the country and his pride at representing Glasgow.

Running against Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside, Mr Sarwar also revealed he still got homesick going on holiday.

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He said: “I am a proud Glaswegian and a proud Scot, it’s a country that has given so much to my family.

The Scotsman's Westminster correspondent Alexander Brown has his teeth checked by Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“My grandad came here in the 1940s on a boat with nothing, settled up in Lossiemouth, brought his own family here, fell in love with Scotland himself. We are now a third generation family in Scotland.

“I am passionate about Scotland, I love Scotland. Scotland is the greatest country in the world as far as I’m concerned, and Glasgow is the greatest city in the world.

“I was born here, brought up here, bringing my own children up here.

“No matter where I go in the world I always will consider Glasgow home. I miss Glasgow, I get home sick.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (right) on the campaign trail. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Speaking in a dental practice, the former dentist claimed the country still had work to do.

He explained: “Scotland is a phenomenal place and so is Glasgow, but can we do better? Of course we can.

“I want everyone across Glasgow and everyone across Scotland to be able to fulfil their potential.

“I want us to be an example, not just to the UK, but to the whole world.”

The Scotsman's Westminster correspondent Alexander Brown has his teeth checked by Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Mr Sarwar, who replaced Richard Leonard as party leader in February, admitted his party was unlikely to win May’s election, but claimed more Labour MSPs would “pull” the SNP towards doing the “right thing”.

He explained: “I would love to say Labour are going to win the election, but then you would probably say I need to be in the chair getting treatment of a different sort.

“The reality is I’ve been in the job five weeks, and I’ve said to people I want to get Labour back on the pitch. I want them to be relevant to people’s lives again and coming out of this election in a better position, and then using the course of the five years that follows to turn from better opposition to alternative government.

“Scotland deserves a better government and better opposition. I want us to be able to pull the government towards focusing on people priorities.”

Challenged on why the SNP was polling so well, Mr Sarwar suggested they had enjoyed weak opposition from the Scottish Tories.

He said: “There are failures of government and we are going to expose those failures of government, but also, the opposition hasn’t been good enough.

"We have not had a good enough opposition over the last five years, which in many ways has made life easier for the government and easier for Nicola Sturgeon.

“I want to have an opposition that doesn’t just shout at the government, doesn’t just talk when things go wrong, but also pulls the government towards doing the right things for the country around closing the attainment gap, catching up on our NHS, a significant boost for jobs and the economy around the country, and challenging the climate emergency head on.

“These are all huge issues, so yes, people are voting for a government, but they are also voting for an opposition.”

A victim of racist abuse during the campaign, Mr Sarwar also said a mainstream party having someone with his background as leader showed Scotland’s strengths.

He explained: “Someone that looks like me, from my background, with a Muslim heritage, being able to be elected leader of a mainstream party in Scotland, doesn’t say anything about me. It says something amazing about Scotland, and the kind of country we aspire to be – an outwardly looking internationalist country.

“Does that mean the fight for equality is over? Far from it.

“We still have too much built-in prejudice across our society, across organisations and institutions, so we have to redouble our efforts to make sure the Scotland we all aspire to be is what we deliver in practise and that means actions, not words.”

Asked what he was most looking forward to, the Glasgow University graduate answered a holiday.

He said: “When we are allowed to do so, I can’t wait to go on a holiday and lie on a warm sunny beach somewhere with baking sun, so I can top up on my much needed vitamin D.”

Speaking to voters in Glasgow, the prospect of another referendum was brought up constantly.

Ron, who works in property, said he would be voting Liberal Democrat for the sake of the union.

He said: “Important to me in terms of keeping the union together is a priority for everybody at the moment.

“It’s a bit too early at the moment to discuss independence, I'm not opposed to independence.”

Kathleen explained she had voted SNP last time and would be again because of “changes good for the city”.

She said: “They put in the bike lanes, the Covid social distancing stuff, they are doing a lot in the square as well.”

Stewart claimed the direction Scotland was going in was “frightening”.

He said: “Everywhere in Scotland you can see your bins are not getting emptied, there’s litter lying everywhere.

“We are in the middle of the pandemic. I lost two family members in a week and all we are hearing is another referendum.

“The last thing Scotland needs now is more division, so that’s why I will be voting Labour to bring the country together.”

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