By Anas Sarwar
My grandfather arrived in the UK on a boat with nothing. He travelled north looking for a place to settle and came across the seaside village of Lossiemouth.
He always intended to return home, but instead fell in love with Scotland and brought his family here. It was the Labour party that fought for his rights and for our diverse minority communities. I doubt he ever imagined then that his grandchild would one day be elected to parliament and stand to be party leader.
Growing up as a young Scots-Asian in Glasgow, I saw the difference that electing a Labour government could make in the battle against intolerance and injustice. Our party has always been at the forefront of building a fairer society. Today, in the face of some of the most overwhelming challenges – ending poverty, healing our health service, tackling the climate emergency – we are needed more than ever.
But we don’t have a right to be listened to just because of what we have achieved in the past. The truth is that we haven’t given the country, our members or our supporters the party they deserve. We must learn to remember our common cause.
Over the past few years, I have gained a new perspective on our politics and realised that the things we argue about mean little to people’s lives. We spend too much time highlighting our differences, rather than focusing on what unites us. I am determined to bring our movement together so that we can rebuild our party. That is why I will put my name forward to be the next Scottish Labour leader.
Over the coming days and weeks, I will lay out my ambition to create the Scotland we should all aspire to: where no child grows up in poverty, where we lead the world in ending climate breakdown and we restore our NHS so that we never again have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.
It will need all of us to work together – the whole team – so that we can transform our party into a strong and credible opposition with realistic, constructive ideas for the future. We must rebuild Scottish Labour because our opponents – the SNP and Tories – want to take our country back to the divisive politics of old. I firmly believe we cannot go back to society as it was before the pandemic – insecure work, hollowed out public services, an underfunded health service and the constant focus on another independence referendum when there are far more important things we need to be dealing with.
The Tories and the SNP have let us down. Both governments have been in power for over a decade, preaching their claims of success while almost a quarter of Scottish kids are growing up in poverty. Scottish Labour can compete again if we offer a positive alternative – a plan to heal our wounds, to reunite our people and to rebuild our country.
My experience has made me determined to work towards ending the divisions of race, gender, power or opportunity. Speaking out against the racism I have faced was the hardest thing I have done in politics. My family has faced death threats as a result. But I have used that experience to spend my time in our communities working on what unites us and bringing people together – I have listened and I have learned.
I want to bring that same approach to our Labour movement so that we can rebuild our party and rebuild our country.
(Anas Sarwar is Labour MSP for Glasgow)