Last year, in his address to party conference, Anas Sarwar told delegates that it wasn’t enough for Labour “to tell people that the Tories and the SNP deserve to lose.”

No, they would need to set out to voters why they deserved to win.

In this year’s conference speech he attempted to just that.

We heard the word "change" or some form of it about 61 times in the hour-long address.

The phrase, “That’s what change means, that’s why change matters” was used 14 times.

It was not a policy heavy speech. There were promises to simplify planning rules, and hints of possible tax cuts, and a vow to spend Barnett consequentials from a change to non-dom taxes on the health service

And Ian Murray’s going to do a bit more flogging of brand Scotland when he becomes Scottish Secretary.

When we’re this close to the general election, you might have expected more. 

But maybe there’s a good reason for that.

At a fringe event on Friday morning, two boffins from the Scottish Election Study, an independent group of academics who analyse politics, elections and voting behaviour had good news for Labour.

When Scottish voters were asked to pick whether their priorities for the next general election were gaining more independence supporting MPs, more pro-union MPs, or just getting rid of the Tories, almost 50% just want to dislodge Rishi Sunak’s government.

The priority for Scots is getting rid of the government and they see Labour as being best placed to do that.

They are also, the academics told us, the "least disliked" party in Scotland, and Sarwar the least unpopular leader.

Key to Labour’s success in Scotland is what the profs called the switchers; those voters who had backed someone else at the last election but were already decided for Labour.

There are, it seems, a lot of them.

In their sample of 313 people who were planning on voting Labour at the next election, 42% were switchers.

Of those, just 28% believe Labour has the best policies.

The worry for Sarwar and his colleagues is that it’s a soft vote.

“They are liable to switch again if they see something else that they like more or something from Labour that they dislike,” Dr Fraser McMillan told the 20 or so people who had made it to the early morning event.

Interestingly, all these new switchers now mean that one in four Labour voters are pro-independence.

That vote has always broken for the SNP. They got nearly 90% of the Yes vote in 2021, but now that’s ticked down to below 70% and possibly even lower.

As MSP Paul Sweeney, who was at the fringe, pointed out, yes voters are no longer punishing Labour.

Given that they’ve also consolidated the No vote, you can perhaps understand why Anas Sarwar walked on and off stage to Sia’s Unstoppable.

So, no, it wasn’t a policy-heavy speech, but then, right now, although they say health, the economy and education are their priorities, it seems like that’s not what voters want to hear.

One of the other interesting takeaways from the Scotland Election Study fringe was that Labour won't have long.

As the Tories and SNP are finding out after 14 and 17 years in power, there is what political scientists call a “cost of government.”

If Anas Sarwar is to be First Minister, then he’ll have to hope that when the Holyrood election ticks round in 2026 there’s still some change leftover from that cost.