THE SNP "reek of entitlement" and have been taking people for granted for a very long time, argues Scottish Labour leadership contender Monica Lennon.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, she accused the SNP of wasting years in power, with a huge gap between its rhetoric and its record.

Lennon said she wants Scottish Labour to show it is passionate about "radical change", favouring neither independence nor the "status quo union that the Tories believe in".

She reiterated her argument that it is for the people of Scotland to decide if there should be another referendum, not Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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

Lennon has said pro-independence parties would have a mandate for another vote if they win a majority at the Holyrood election in May.

This puts her at odds with her leadership rival Anas Sarwar, who has made clear he will oppose a second referendum in the next parliamentary term. 

If there is a referendum, Lennon said she will fight "tooth and nail" for a multi-question ballot and then campaign for a federal option.

She said: "I don't believe in independence. It worries me, the damage it would do to our economy and the impact it would have on the people who are already struggling the most, the people who are living in poverty.

"But I'm also a democratic socialist and when I'm asked, 'If people in Scotland say they want a referendum and people in Scotland express that at the ballot box, what is your response?', my response is that is for the people of Scotland to decide. 

"It shouldn't be up to Boris Johnson or any other Prime Minister to say no to that.

"And I think it would be wrong, it would be a disaster for Scottish Labour to hide behind Boris Johnson and take the same response as him, which is not democratic."

Lennon added: "If there is going to be a referendum, then I would fight tooth and nail for that to be a multi-question referendum.

"We shouldn't go back to the binary, divisive argument of 2014, and that's what happened when Scottish Labour just left it to the SNP and the Tories to decide what the question should be. 

"This is why I don't want Scottish Labour to be on the sidelines. I want us to be proactive, I want us to have influence, and I want us to make the passionate case for change – but change in the UK, reform in the UK, and bringing more powers closer to people in Scotland."

Lennon said there is space for a grassroots campaign to make the case for "enhanced devolution" now.

Labour could play a big role in this, she said, but it could also involve trade unions and other civic groups. 

The 40-year-old has served as an MSP for the Central Scotland region since 2016 and was previously a councillor and planning officer.

She recently hit the headlines after driving forward legislative change that led to Scotland becoming the first country in the world to introduce free universal access to period products.

HeraldScotland:

Lennon is backed by many on the party's left but is seen as the underdog in the leadership contest.

She said she would want Sarwar to play "a big role" in her shadow cabinet if she won the battle to be the next Scottish Labour leader. The winner is due to be announced on February 27.

Lennon said her overriding mission will be to end child poverty. 

She is also passionate about addressing Scotland's drug deaths scandal, which she describes as a shameful "stain" on Holyrood.

Asked why Labour has lost its relevance in Scotland in recent years, she said it's "not just a recent issue", adding: "We've been haemorrhaging votes since the start of devolution."

She added: "We've been in opposition since 2007, so we haven't won an election in the Scottish Parliament for a very long time.

"And if you look more recently, at what happened roundabout the time of 2014 and the referendum and what happened after that, the disconnect between Scottish Labour and our traditional heartlands just grew even bigger."

Lennon said the party took voters for granted in the past.

She said: "We stopped listening to people about the changes that they wanted in their lives."

She added: "We've not really changed. We haven't really modernised, and people perhaps look at Labour and see us in recent years as being a bit stuck in the past and not being able to move on, and being perhaps a bit bitter, a bit grumpy towards the SNP."

Lennon said there is a need for a Scottish Labour Party, adding: "We believe in social justice. We don't believe in independence and we don't believe in the status quo union that the Tories believe in. 

"We want radical change. We want bold change in how the country is run, because the country's too unequal."

READ MORE: Scotland passes ‘progressive’ legislation to tackle period poverty

The SNP Government, Lennon argued, has been characterised by "task forces and working groups and pilot schemes, and they'll hand out little bits of money here and there, but it's not transformative".

She said: "You asked me about Labour, when I said Labour took people for granted in the past when we had the privilege of being in government. 

"If you look at the SNP, they just reek of entitlement. They have been taking people for granted for a very long time. 

"If you look at the gap between rhetoric and record, it's huge.

"Nicola Sturgeon, who promised to close the poverty-related attainment gap, who promised to make education her priority, who talked about giving children in Scotland the best start in life – she just hasn't delivered."

However Lennon stressed it's not good enough for Labour to just sit back and wait for the SNP to "disappoint people". 

She added: "Scottish Labour's got to inspire people to want to come out and vote for Labour."

Asked about Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP's biggest weaknesses, Lennon said Sturgeon "is the establishment", adding: "She's been in the parliament since 1999.

"From a young age she's been campaigning to be a politician. She's been a politician her whole adult life. 

"I think she's become very comfortable as leader of her party, as First Minister.

"I can understand why some people in the SNP who desperately want a referendum feel that Nicola Sturgeon actually wants power more than she wants independence. 

"But it's not for me to critique what's happening within the SNP – they clearly have their issues right now, which has become a distraction during a pandemic. 

"My biggest frustration as a citizen and as an MSP is that they've wasted so many years in government, where they could have been bold, they could have used the powers of the parliament more progressively to really tackle the big issues that are holding people back."