Anas Sarwar has distanced himself from Sir Keir Starmer’s praise of Margaret Thatcher, saying the former prime minister was responsible for “destroying communities across Scotland.”

The Scottish Labour chief also accused the SNP of double standards, pointing to a 2008 interview when Alex Salmond claimed Scots "didn't mind" the ex-Tory leader’s economic policies.

The former first minister hit back, saying it was a "ridiculous" comparison. He said Mr Sarwar "sounds like a wee boy trying to pin the blame on someone else for Starmer’s blunder."

READ MORE: Keir Starmer defends praise for Margaret Thatcher

Over the weekend, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Sir Keir wrote: "Every moment of meaningful change in modern British politics begins with the realisation that politics must act in service of the British people, rather than dictating to them.

"Margaret Thatcher sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism."

First Minister Humza Yousaf described the comment as an “insult to those communities in Scotland, and across the UK, who still bear the scars of her disastrous policies."

The Herald:

On Monday, following outrage over the article, Sir Keir insisted he was not endorsing her policies.

“What I was doing at the weekend in the article I wrote for The Sunday Telegraph was distinguishing between particularly post-war leaders – those leaders, those prime ministers – who had a driving sense of purpose, ambition, a plan to deliver and those that drifted,” he said,

On Mrs Thatcher, he added: “Now it doesn’t mean I agree with what she did but you don’t have to agree with someone to recognise they had a mission and a plan.

“So I was giving Margaret Thatcher as an example of the sort of leader who had that mission and plan. That’s obviously different to saying I agree with everything that she did.”

Speaking to journalists in Glasgow on Tuesday morning, Mr Sarwar denied the comments from his party leader were a gift to the SNP.

“This is the same SNP, who when Alex Salmond was the first minister said that Scotland didn't mind Thatcher's economic policy when that economic policy destroyed communities across our country.

“I didn't hear the SNP back benches, I didn't hear Stephen Flynn or Humza Yousaf calling out Alex Salmond for that pathetic response.

“So I'll take no lectures from them.

“It's another example of the SNP wanting to attack the Labour Party because they actually want to keep a Conservative government and it's actually a Conservative government that's doing damage to this country, damage they want to continue because it suits their own political ends.”

Mr Sarwar continued: “What I'm really clear about is Margaret Thatcher destroyed communities across this country, she destroyed communities in Scotland.

“And I want to get rid of this modern day Thatcherite, Conservative government, actually, a Conservative Party that has probably gone so extreme, that even Margaret Thatcher would now probably find them unpalatable.”

READ MORE: Thatcher: a figure of hate in Scotland

Mr Sarwar was asked about criticism from some in the Labour movement, including former MSP Neil Findlay who described Sir Keir’s comments as an “insult.”

“I agree with Neil on the impact, the negative impact that Margaret Thatcher made on this country,” the Scottish Labour leader said. “She destroyed communities across this country.”

But, he added, he did not want Labour to be a “party of protest that keeps the Conservatives in power, meaning they continue to destroy communities across the country, including here in Scotland”

“I want to be party of a political movement that removes this horrific right wing, crankfest conspiracy theory ridden Tory government,” he continued.

Asked if he was worried the praise could be seen as pandering to Tory voters or alienating Scots, Mr Sarwar said: “By its very nature, we have to persuade people who have voted for other political parties to vote for your political party in any future election."

Mr Sarwar’s remarks echo criticism made by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, who said Baroness Thatcher’s legacy in Wales was not "one that we celebrate".

Mr Salmond’s comments came In an interview with Total Politics 14 years ago, when the then first minister said: "The SNP have a strong social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself.

"One of the reasons Scotland didn't take to Lady Thatcher was because of that.

"We didn't mind the economic side so much. But we didn't like the social side at all."

Speaking today, Mr Salmond said: “Anas sounds like a wee boy trying to pin the blame on someone else for Starmer’s blunder.

"What I actually said way back in 2008 is that Scots couldn’t stomach the social policies of Thatcherism more than the economic ones. I know this because I was fighting the poll tax when Anas was in short trousers.

"To equate that interview with this week’s Starmer calculated Telegraph love-in with Thatcherite policies is both desperate and ridiculous.

"If Anas aspires to ever run more than the branch office and achieve anything at all in politics then he will have to learn to grow up. Right now I don’t think he is going to make it”

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said: “Thatcher inflicted complete and utter devastation to working class industrial communities in Scotland. The Labour leader's words were an absolute insult to those communities. 

“After more than two days, Anas Sarwar has finally plucked up the courage to distance himself from Thatcher's legacy.

"Yet it beggars belief that all other Labour MSPs in Holyrood remain silent - while their boss at Westminster fawns over Thatcher. The few Labour members who are left in Scotland will be livid. 

"Voters deserve to know if their local Labour MPs, MSPs and Councillors agree with their party leader, Keir Starmer, that Thatcher should be celebrated in Scotland."