A future Labour government in Scotland would reform devolution giving MSPs more power to hold ministers to account, Anas Sarwar has said.

In a speech to mark the 25th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament’s first session, the party leader accused the SNP of being “arrogant” and “drunk on power.”

His administration would, he promised, “clean up the Scottish Parliament.”

READ MORE: Tory calls for number of Scottish Government ministers to be capped

Speaking in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall Mr Sarwar paid tribute to former Labour leader John Smith who died 30 years ago this week.

The Herald:

He quoted the former Monklands East MP: "Our people need better protection against the kind of arrogance of power that puts vested interest before the national interest and ideology before need."

“He could have been talking about Rishi Sunak's Tories or John Swinney's SNP today,” Mr Sarwar said.

“Arrogant. Drunk on power. Putting their own narrow interests ahead of the national interest.

“That is why we need democratic and social renewal across our nations and regions. On this 25th anniversary of devolution, we need to strengthen our democracy.”

He said his party would “prioritise co-operation over conflict and ensure that Scotland is at the heart of government in Westminster, with Scottish MPs around the Cabinet table.”

“We will clean up the Scottish Parliament, with MSPs granted the same privileges and protections as MPs and stronger powers for the parliament to hold ministers to account.

"That includes the election of committee conveners, the right to recall MSPs, a ban on second jobs, and stronger FOI laws to ensure greater transparency and to rebuild trust in politics.

“And we will push power out of Holyrood and into the regions of Scotland.”

This, he said, would include “a new fair funding formula for councils, and a Local Democracy Act to create regional mayors and greater co-operation across our regions.”

The SNP was not a party of devolution, Mr Sarwar told the audience of party activists and politicians.

“It wants to hoard power in Edinburgh.”

However, he rejected calls for the number of MSPs in Holyrood to increase, saying it would do little to address public frustrations with politics.

READ MORE: Sarwar defends Scottish Labour candidate selection


Answering questions from journalists, Mr Swinney said the SNP had "undoubtedly" moved to the right under John Swinney's leadership.

He said: "I think undoubtedly there is a language shift, and perhaps a positioning shift from the SNP, that has shifted more to the right that what was there previously.

"I've got lots of criticisms of Nicola Sturgeon and lots of criticisms of her record, but no one can argue that she was a social policy-led first minister.

"I don't think we're going to get that with this current leadership.

"And neither do I think they have the credible economic plan that's going to give us the growth that we need to deliver.

"And so there's undoubtedly been a shift."

The Herald:

Mr Sarwar also confirmed that Scottish Labour is not talking to any Tory MSPs about defecting.

It comes after right-wing Tory MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour at Prime Minister's Questions last week.

Mr Sarwar said: "I can clamp down [on that].

"There are no discussions with Tory MSPs, although I can imagine a lot of Tory MSPs will view this current Conservative Party as being completely alien to the Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservatives that was in place a while ago.

"So if any of them are thinking of jumping ship, they should come out and just say first of all that the dysfunctional Tory Government should go and people should vote Labour across the country."

He added: "I don't know Natalie Elphicke, I've never met Natalie Elphicke. Lots of her comments I find completely unacceptable.

"What I do agree with her on is that Rishi Sunak's time is up, that we have a chaotic and divided Conservative Party in office and that we need a Labour Government."

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said: "From U-turning on plans to abolish the unelected House of Lords to welcoming disgraced Tory MPs into their ranks, Labour has no credibility whatsoever. 

"Recent analysis has shown 100,000 children in Scotland have been lifted out of poverty due to the action of this SNP government.

"The SNP continues to deliver free prescriptions, a scrap on tuition fees and free bus travel for under 22s and the over 60s. That’s the difference that devolution makes - so just think what Scotland could do with the full powers of independence.

"Labour talk about democratic renewal but want to block Scotland’s right to determine its own future at the ballot box. It is only with independence that decisions about Scotland will be made in Scotland, not Westminster, to build a fairer, wealthier and more equal country."