Anas Sarwar vows to 'unite' Scottish Labour as he launches leadership bid
A former MP has vowed to "unite" the Scottish Labour party as he launched his bid to become its next leader.
Anas Sarwar said the party should not be "fighting itself" as it tries to defeat the SNP at Holyrood and the Conservatives at Westminster.
He threw his hat into the ring the day after former union official Richard Leonard announced that he was running to succeed Kezia Dugdale, who surprisingly quit as Scottish Labour boss last week.
Mr Sarwar - who was MP for Glasgow Central from 2010 until he lost his seat in 2015 - said it was a contest "that nobody wanted or expected".
He will be the moderate candidate, while Mr Leonard is likely to draw his support from the party's left-wing.
"Labour is revitalised in Scotland and I am ready to unite our party and lead us back to power," said Mr Sarwar, who only became an MSP at last year's Scottish Parliament elections.
“The people of Scotland do not need a Labour party that is fighting itself. They need a united Labour party in Holyrood that is fighting the SNP and ready to form Scotland’s next government. And they need a united Labour Party across the UK working together to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister."
In a video posted on his Twitter page, Mr Sarwar added: "We are not motivated by flags, like the SNP, or by creating a society for the privileged few, like the Tories.
"Instead, our fight will always be to fight inequality and injustice wherever we see it.
"With support and encouragement from members of the Labour family across Scotland, I am ready to lead that fight."
The battle to be Scottish Labour leader is significant for the UK party as the winner will claim a seat on its ruling national executive council.
The key decision-making body is currently finely-balanced between moderates and the party's left-wing, but a victory for Mr Leonard will tip it in Mr Corbyn's favour.
Significantly, leading supporters of Mr Corbyn were among the first to welcome Mr Leonard's candidacy.
Announcing his candidacy in the Sunday Mail yesterday, he said: "I have always believed it is important to act according to Labour principles rather than simply manoeuvre and position to win support.
"This means taking more chances. Labour are in third place and unless we are audacious now, we will never win back the support of the people of Scotland. And that must be our aim.
"The Labour vote is picking up but that is not enough. We need to win power – not for its own sake but for a purpose."