Anas Sarwar has billed Scottish Labour as “unashamedly a pro-business and pro-growth party” as he insisted he can become the next first minister in 2026.

The Scottish Labour leader has set out his economic growth strategy that he intends to launch in opposition at Holyrood before an ambition to see it through in government, in tandem with Sir Keir Starmer becoming the next prime minister.

The strategy focuses on green energy, finance and technology.

Labour has struggled to win support of business since the days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, particularly during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Labour has also struggled to win support in Scotland in previous years, with Mr Sarwar previously admitting that the party had an image and competence problem with the public.

In a keynote speech to business leaders in Glasgow, Mr Sarwar acknowledged that “people across Scotland are rightly asking questions” about his party.

Read more: Sarwar's economic strategy to focus on green energy, finance and tech

He added: “They know we have changed, and they know that we are electable once again, but they also want to understand more about what guides us as a party and what we would do in power.”

The Scottish Labour leader stressed that he is “making it clear that Scottish Labour is unashamedly a pro-business and pro-growth party”.

Mr Sarwar committed that before the next general election, set to be held before the end of 2024, Labour “will set out an economic growth plan for Scotland in partnership with business”.

He warned that the “best and the only vehicle for deliver social policy change” is if “it is backed up by strong economy”, which includes “companies making profit, creating jobs, and paying their fair share of taxes”.

Read more: Douglas Ross's economic blueprint hides an election plan of attack

Mr Sarwar warned that in 25 years of devolution, Holyrood has “been very much a social policy parliament, rather than an economic policy parliament”.

He added: “And that has let down Scottish employers, weakening our potential for growth.

“With the vast powers that Holyrood has and during a cost-of-living crisis – and let’s not forget, a cost-of-doing-business crisis – it’s vital that we debate how to deliver economic growth.

“That’s what Scottish businesses deserve.

“Our determination to deliver better public services is only possible if we also have strong economic growth.”

He claimed that his party “is serious about listening to the voice of business” and “serious about building economic growth”.

Taking aim at Scotland’s two governments, Mr Sarwar warned they have been “bad for business, bad for jobs, and bad for growth”.

He said: “They are delivering low growth, low productivity, and high levels of poverty.

“A First Minister preparing to deliver his Programme for Government next week when he doesn’t know what direction his government is going in anymore.

“And a Prime Minister trying – and failing – to fix the economic mistakes that his own party made.”

The Scottish Labour leader pointed to a study by the Fraser of Allander Institute that found that only 9% of companies believe the Scotttish Government understand the country’s business landscape.

Read more: Fewer than one in ten firms believe Scot Gov gets business

He said: “That is a damning verdict on the SNP administration, which has lost the confidence of business.

“But in the Labour Party, we understand what really matters to people and businesses.

“UK economic growth does not happen without Scottish economic growth.

“It doesn’t happen without harnessing our energy potential, seizing our finance and tech leadership opportunities, and expanding on the success of our tourism and food and drink sectors.”

Mr Sarwar said that he will “build in opposition” his economic growth plan and “then deliver in government from 2026”.

He added: “We want to build an economic growth plan, first working with industry to road-test it in opposition, and then delivering it from day one in government, in tandem with the UK Government.

“A plan based on partnership and cooperation that will deliver greater results for people here in Scotland, with a strong economy, better jobs, and more jobs – in every part of the country.

“For too long, businesses have been expendable pawns in the endless grievance battle between the SNP and the Tories.

“An entire generation has known nothing but confrontation between two governments.

“That is not conducive to growing our economy.

“Devolution should be the partnership it was always intended to be, and that will be the case under Labour.”