Anas Sarwar has pledged that Scottish Labour will offer a “better opposition” as he set his sights on beating the Conservatives and depriving the SNP of a majority at the Holyrood election.
The Scottish Labour leader unveiled advertising vans that urge Scots to use both votes for his party on the constituency and regional list ballot papers in May’s election.
Mr Sarwar has described the Scottish Tories as “game-playing and incompetent” and warned they have resorted to “old arguments and old divisions”.
Instead, Mr Sarwar said Scottish Labour under his leadership “can stop an SNP majority and we can push them towards the priorities that matter coming through this recovery”.
Scottish Labour won 24 seats at the previous Scottish Parliament election, falling to third place behind the Scottish Conservatives, who won 31 seats.
Mr Sarwar, who is a candidate for the Glasgow Southside constituency and the Glasgow regional list, said five years of the Tories as the main opposition have been “chaos”.
Speaking outside Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, he said: “I think Scotland can choose something different and in this election you’re not just electing a government, you’re also electing an opposition.
“And that’s why we’re saying to use both your votes for Labour so we can stop an SNP majority and we can push them towards the priorities that matter coming through this recovery.
“But it also means having an opposition that’s not just gonna play games but is actually going to try and focus on making us come through this as a stronger and fairer nation.”
Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Sarwar added: “On every issue, they want to take us back to the old arguments they aren’t serious about taking us forward as a country and focusing on the national recovery.
“You’ve seen over the last five years, where they promised to give us a strong opposition. And instead of governance is chaos across the country.
“Scotland deserves better than that.
“But if you want a better government, you want a better opposition, you want to choose something different, you’ve got to vote for it, and that’s why we’re asking people to vote Labour in this election.”
Looking ahead to the second Scottish leaders’ debate on Tuesday evening, Mr Sarwar said: “What I hope people will understand after the TV debate today is that this isn’t just an average election, this is a pandemic election where lives and livelihoods have been lost and lives and livelihoods are at risk.
“At this time of national crisis, I don’t want us to go back to the egos, to settling scores, to the old arguments.
“Instead, I want us to recognise that we’ve come through this crisis together and we should continue to work together in the national interest to focus on the national recovery so that we come through this as a stronger, fairer, more equal nation than the one that went into lockdown last year.”
Responding to Mr Sarwar’s comments, Scottish Conservative candidate for Glasgow, Annie Wells, said: “The once-great Labour party used to stand up to the SNP but they’re too weak now.
“They abstained in the vote of no confidence against Nicola Sturgeon, they backed the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill, and nobody trusts them to oppose another referendum the next time that Nicola Sturgeon demands it.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to stand up to the SNP, and stop their plans for another divisive independence referendum, and get all of the focus back on our recovery from Covid and rebuilding Scotland.”