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Anas Sarwar claims 'Scottish Labour is back' despite second-worst ever local elections

Anas Sarwar celebrates with Labour candidates at the vote count in Glasgow - where his party narrowly failed to win. Photo: PA

THE Scottish Labour Party “is back”, Anas Sarwar has declared after his party suffered their second-worst local election result on record.

The 2022 Scottish council election comes just one year after the party saw its worst result in the history of devolution at the Holyrood elections in 2021.

That in turn followed on from dismal General Election performances which have seen the party lose all but one Westminster seat north of the Border – Ian Murray’s Edinburgh South.

Labour did gain 20 seats – equal to the LibDems – at the local elections held on May 5, largely thanks to the collapse of the Tory vote amid scandals at Westminster and Douglas Ross’s U-turns.

However, this only puts Sarwar’s party on 282 seats. For context, in 2012 they returned 394. It was a lacklustre revival from the low of 262 councillors the party saw elected in 2017.

Labour's UK leader Keir Starmer praised the 2022 results as "fantastic ... the best results for 10 years". 

Labour also managed to claim complete control over one council – West Dunbartonshire – but are the largest group on only three of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. The Tories performed better by that metric, as they are now the largest group on five.

Nevertheless, Sarwar (below) took an optimistic stance after the results came in, saying on Saturday: “One thing is clear over the last 24 hours and that is the Scottish Labour Party is back.

“We’re back, yes in second place, but we don’t aspire for second place, we aspire for first place, and the same hope and energy we have demonstrated over the last year we will continue to do so we can get to a place, yes, to boot out Boris from Downing Street, but also to change our politics and change our country here in Scotland.”

When asked how he looked to take first place from the SNP, Sarwar said: “Fourteen months we’ve been in the job and 14 months ago there were claims of Labour being pushed into fourth place – we were at 14% in the polls.

“We stopped armageddon last year [at the Holyrood elections], we spent the last year building a credible, future-looking party that’s demonstrated progress in these elections.”

When asked if the improvement in Labour’s fortunes was a “blip” because of dissatisfaction over partygate, Sarwar said: “People will see right across the UK that Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister, he does not deserve to be Prime Minister.

“Every day he stays Prime Minister is a bad day for the United Kingdom, so the sooner we boot him out of office, the better.

“I’m not just waiting for the Tories and the SNP to deserve to lose in the eyes of the people, I want Labour to deserve to win.

“That’s the hope and energy we’re going to continue to demonstrate in the coming weeks, months and years so we can get back on the side of people.”

Asked about a Scottish Labour revival on the BBC, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was dismissive.

Blackford said: “The party that had the biggest increase in seats and the biggest increase in its vote was the SNP.

"What we saw further down in the batting order if you like is that Labour has replaced the Tories in second place. It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb, if you will.

“Actually this is Labour’s second-worst result in local authority elections in Scotland over the course of the last 50 years. I congratulate them on picking up the seats that they’ve won but in essence, this is just a reflection on what is the collapse of the Tory vote.”

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