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SCOTTISH Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said that he is proud of the party’s election showing despite recording its worst ever result in Scotland and returning its lowest number of elected members.
The party leader said that Labour has “something to build on” over the next five years after returning 22 MSPs and winning 18 per cent of the regional list vote, down from 24 MSPs and more than 19 per cent in 2016.
Mr Sarwar, whose party will remain in third place in Holyrood, has claimed that Labour are now “back on the pitch” in Scotland.
He said: “I think even my harshest critics would accept we have run an energetic and enthusiastic campaign.”
Despite claiming that Labour was “significantly ahead” of where it was 10 weeks ago Labour’s polling average then was 18 per cent, its final vote share in Thursday’s election.
By contrast the Conservatives equalled their strongest ever showing in Holyrood.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, dropped to four seats, with suggestions that Scottish leader Willie Rennie could now resign. Alex Salmond’s Alba Party won no seats.
The Scottish Greens finished as big winners, increasing their numbers to eight, including electing a Central Scotland MSP — Gillan Mackay — for the first time.
The party narrowly missed out in a further two seats, falling just 114 votes short of winning a seat in the south of Scotland, and less than 1,000 short of beating the Tories to another seat in Glasgow.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie hit out at the campaigns run by both the SNP and Tories, calling for the nationalists to rethink their “both votes SNP” strategy.
He said: “The Tories’ basic message to the people of Scotland is that their future does not lie in their hands, but it lies in the hands of Boris Johnson behind the door of number 10.
“I think that shows a degree of contempt for basic democracy.”
The result for the Greens, coupled with the SNP’s return of 64 seats — just one short of an overall majority — has led to claims that there is now a “clear mandate” to hold another independence referendum in Scotland.
Socialists have said that Labour must “engage creatively” with the constitutional discussion, with trade union leaders reiterating the lack of appetite for an imminent referendum.
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Now is the time for bold and ambitious policies that will materially improve the lives of working-class people in Scotland. We need immediate action to deliver on manifesto promises on pay, jobs and social care.
“It would be deeply undemocratic for the UK government to continue to deny the Parliament the right to hold a referendum given that a majority in favour of independence has been returned.”
Labour peer and Red Paper Collective convenor Pauline Bryan added: “Opposition parties, particularly Labour, need to engage creatively with this issue. Just saying ‘no’ is a recipe not just for failure, but irrelevance.”
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