IT'S been a long time coming, out of government in Edinburgh for 16 years, out of power at Westminster for 13, but at the Labour conference in Liverpool there is a feeling that the dark days are about to come to an end.

Some of the biggest cheers in the main hall today were for a newbie politician many of the thousands of the party faithful who have flocked to the four day event on the banks of the Mersey probably had not heard of until last week.

Yes, the man of the moment Michael Shanks, the victor in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election last Thursday, has been the focus of much celebration.

Huge applause rang out when the former modern studies teacher took to the stage this afternoon to introduce his boss Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and explain to the audience that he was a "first time speaker to the UK Labour conference".

Few observers doubted that he would triumph at the ballot box last week but the scale of his win took even the most seasoned experts by surprise.

With a strong suspicion held among Labour party members south of the border that Scotland may be "lost" to the SNP, Mr Sarwar was keen to prove that fear wrong - albeit with an explanation about just how bad the situation had been in his eyes.

So it was the 24% swing from the SNP to Labour on Thursday which really put a spring in Scottish Labour's step and prompted Mr Sarwar to declare to delegates that "the tectonic plates have shifted" in politics north of the border.

There was little attention in Mr Sarwar's or Ian Murray's speeches to the SNP's long list of internal woes. The Edinburgh South MP referred in passing to his opponents' internal arguments and mocked Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn with a joke about the campervan seized as part of a police investigation into SNP finances.

The Shadow Scottish Secretary said the change in leadership from Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford to Yousaf and Flynn was "the biggest downgrade since Sturgeon moved out of Bute House and into a luxury campervan."

But Mr Sarwar put considerable focus on the SNP's record in government in Edinburgh and argued that they, like their Conservative counterparts in London, had fallen short. His own party offered a fresh start in both centres of political power, he argued.

"The people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have spoken for all of Scotland and sent a message to two failing governments: That they want an end to the incompetence. An end to the chaos. An end to the division," he told delegates.

"They voted for change and for a party that will give Scotland its future back. Scottish Labour is once again the party that speaks for the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland."

He continued: "But friends, the change we've seen in Scotland would not have been possible if over the last three years Keir Starmer hadn’t worked to change our Labour Party. In that time, we've gone from our worst result since the 1930s.

"To now being seen as a force that will finally rid our whole country of this rotten, lying, out of touch, corrupt, far-right crankfest, conspiracy theorist ridden Tory government."

The challenge of course for Labour now will be to sustain the momentum the party has gathered in the course of the past 12 months on both sides of the border, helped by the difficulties which have engulfed their opponents in government, as the countdown begins to the general election next year.