Sarwar challenges ‘divided and distracted’ SNP to call early Holyrood election

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The SNP is so divided and distracted by internal difficulties that it is no longer “governing in the interests of Scotland”, Labour’s Anas Sarwar said as he called for an early Holyrood election.

Amid speculation that former first minister Nicola Sturgeon may be about to quit as an MSP, prompting a by-election in Glasgow Southside, Mr Sarwar said a “wider” election across all of Scotland was needed.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “If Nicola Sturgeon is going to resign and, of course, that is a matter for Nicola Sturgeon, it’s a matter for the SNP, not a matter for me, but I am more interested in us having a wider election, not just an election in one constituency.”

He challenged SNP leader Humza Yousaf to call an early Holyrood vote, with Mr Sarwar saying: “We need a government that is on the side of people across this country, so let’s call an election and let’s let the people decide what the priorities are and elect a functioning government in Scotland.”

His comments came after a speech in the Pollok Community Centre, in Mr Yousaf’s own constituency, where Mr Sarwar said the SNP was now “irretrievably divided”.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “As they turn inwards and fight among themselves, the SNP have completely forgotten what matters.

“When you have a party that cares only about dividing the country, it’s no wonder that the party itself is now irretrievably divided.”

He claimed Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell had together “covered up the truth about their own party”, with Mr Sarwar saying the pair “tried to cover up their failings in office”.

With Mr Yousaf having replaced Ms Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister after a divisive leadership contest, the Labour MSP said that “festering wounds in the SNP have opened, replacing cover-up and secrecy with incompetence and delusion”.

Speaking about Mr Yousaf’s party, he added: “This distracted and divided government is disastrous for Scotland.”

Anas Sarwar speech
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar makes a keynote speech at Pollok Community Centre in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Right now, we have two failing Governments. A morally bankrupt Tory Party. A Scottish National Party trying not to go bankrupt.

“And both bankrupt when it comes to the ideas and vision that our country needs.”

Mr Sarwar repeated the challenge he has made to the First Minister, saying: “Let’s give the people a choice and have an early Scottish election.”

“We can’t allow this NHS crisis, the cost-of-living crisis, our education crisis, the crisis in almost every institution in our country, to run for three years as we come to the end of an SNP Government.”

And while he said Labour had once “feared” elections in Scotland, Mr Sarwar said his party was now “excited” to make its case to voters.

He insisted: “We’re focused on the future and we’re coming for the SNP, we’re coming for the Tories. Because this country needs change and we are going to deliver it.

“We’ve got our energy back, got our mojo back, we’re excited about elections. There was a time Labour feared elections. I can’t wait for the elections.

“I can’t wait for 2024, I can’t wait for 2026, because change is coming and we’re going to deliver that change.”

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