Anas Sarwar has warned party supporters to expect “dirty tricks” from the SNP and the Conservatives in the run-up to the General Election.

In his first speech of what he described as a “momentous year in the history of British and Scottish politics,” the Labour leader said politics had become a “game” to his rivals.

He said the Tories would “try and divide us with culture wars” and “run an almighty negative campaign".

“But they won’t be alone,” he added. “The SNP are going to spend every day and every month between now and the next general election using their energy not to defend their record, not to attack the Conservatives, but to attack the Labour party.”

He said Humza Yousaf’s party would “prefer to inflict a Tory government on Scotland, so they get to keep their excuse for their failures and their grievance.”

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Mr Sarwar was speaking in Rutherglen, where he was introduced by Michael Shanks, his party’s newest MP.

At the by-election in October, the former modern studies teacher more than doubled the number of votes polled by the SNP’s candidate.

Recent polling suggests a tight race between the two parties, though the SNP need a considerable lead to hold on to their seats.

Mr Sarwar said the current crop of SNP MPs had “wasted the opportunity they were given” at the 2015 election when they won 56 seats and Labour lost 40 of their 41 MPs.

He said Scottish Labour MPs elected at the next vote would ensure that “Scotland has a voice at the heart of the next UK Labour government so that it delivers for Scotland.”

He went to say that a Keir Starmer government would be “an opportunity to reset devolution and take it back to its founding principles.”

“Devolution was never meant to be about two governments fighting with each other and ultimately failing Scots,” he added.

“Devolution was always meant to be about Scottish solutions to Scottish problems.”

Labour, was he said, “the only party of devolution.”

Mr Sarwar also used the speech to set out his party’s preparations for the 2026 Holyrood election.

He said the party would “ramp up our work on setting out what change looks like if you elect a Labour government at Holyrood".

To this end, he said he would “reconstituting the Shadow Cabinet here in Scotland” and charging them with “setting out a bold vision to reform and renew our country".

He also hinted at tax cuts, saying that “unlike the SNP” his party did not “believe that if you earn over £29,000 in Scotland, somehow you have the broadest shoulders".

“But the SNP have decided that almost one and half million Scots should foot the bill for their incompetence. Tragically they are using income tax as a substitute for economic growth".

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Mr Sarwar also urged independence supporters who switched from Labour in the wake of the 2014 referendum to come back to the party.

He said the SNP had been talking down to voters in Scotland.

“We will open our arms, and our eyes and our ears to voters across Scotland and say we understand your frustration. We understand your anger. We understand why you’re so desperate for change.”

Responding to the speech, the SNP's depute leader, Keith Brown said: “In every single seat in Scotland, it is only the SNP who can beat the Tories.

"Whether it be imposing damaging austerity cuts, supporting cruel immigration policies or backing a Tory Brexit, Keir Starmer's Labour isn't even pretending to fight for change any more.

“At this election, only voting SNP will ensure strong MPs who will stand up for Scotland and focus on the prize of a stronger, fairer, independent country."

Scottish Tory Chairman Craig Hoy said Mr Sarwar was “continuing to recycle the same old lines.”

“He might offer carefully scripted, warm words about fighting the SNP, but voters know that in reality his party are an opposition in name only when it comes to key issues at Holyrood,” he added.

“From siding with Nicola Sturgeon on her flawed gender recognition laws, to turning their back on our oil and gas industry and backing dangerous hate crime laws, Scottish Labour repeatedly stands with and votes with the SNP.”