ANAS Sarwar has received the most support in the first phase of the Scottish Labour leadership contest, firming up his position as favourite.

As nominations closed, the Glasgow MSP had secured the backing of most of the  constituency Labour parties (CLPs), unions, councillors and MSPs taking part.

Mr Sarwar was backed by 26 of 47 nominating CLPs, 90 of 126 nominating councillors, nine of 16 unions and affiliates, and 16 of the 21 nominating MSPs.

He was also backed by Scottish Labour’s sole MP, Ian Murray of Edinburgh South.

Ballots now open to all members on February 9, with the winner declared on February 27.

Mr Sarwar’s rival candidate, Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon, was backed by four other MSPs as well as herself, 21 CLPs, 36 councillors and seven affiliated organisations.

The biggest trade unions - Unite and Unison - as well as CWU and TSSA backed Ms Lennon, while GMB, Community, Usdaw and the NUM supported Mr Sarwar.

The contest follows the resignation of Richard Leonard earlier this month.

His successor will be Scottish Labour’s tenth leader of the devolution era and inherit a party struggling for third place at the forthcoming Holyrood election.

READ MORE: Monica Lennon says Scottish Labour should push for Devo Max not block Indyref2

Ms Lennon said: “I am thrilled to be gaining more and more support by the day from members and affiliates across our movement.

“Scottish Labour needs to change and as the change candidate, I am proud that my campaign has energised our grassroots.

“The backing of unions, CLPs and socialist societies has given the campaign energy and momentum, and we are just getting started.

“Our virtual campaign launch attracted 200+ volunteers and we raised £5,000 from small donations in 24 hours.

“As a new generation of leader with a track record of getting results for our communities, I am ready to lead the party I love and take forward our positive vision for a fairer Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar said: “Thank you to all local members and supporters who have engaged in the nomination process, with positive debates about our party’s future being held in CLPs across the country.

“This contest is demonstrating the very best of our party and I look forward to the hustings over the coming days before voting gets underway.

“I am determined to rebuild Scottish Labour, because we can’t hope to reunite the country unless we first reunite our party.

“If we work together, I know what Scottish Labour can do for the people of Scotland.”