SCOTTISH Labour candidates must support the Union, Anas Sarwar has insisted.

He underlined the requirement as his party gathers today in Glasgow for the start of a three day conference and as it prepares for the local government elections in May. Mr Sarwar will address the event this afternoon.

Earlier this year comments attributed to a source close to Keir Starmer suggested Labour could allow its parliamentary candidates to back independence. Mr Sarwar quickly dismissed the remarks made in January.

In an interview with The Herald earlier this week he stressed the position further as he appealed to people with "big ideas" to come forward to work with the party and "rebuild this country."

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar accuses Glasgow's SNP chief Susan Aitken of putting party before city

"If you have a big idea - regardless of whether you were Yes or No, Leave or Remain - that can help our country please tell us.

"And if you know someone who you think would be a champion in your local community and who you would proud to support tell us. And let us rebuild this country."

The Scottish Labour leader was asked whether some of those people could be people who supported independence in 2014 and who still supported independence. He was pressed whether they would have to give up on that belief.

"We have stood candidates in recent elections who had voted Yes in the referendum, who had previously supported independence but now support Scotland staying part of the UK.

"So the point I make is 'nobody asks the SNP to stand pro UK candidates in their election campaign," he said.

"I am not going to pretend I am something I am not. I am not going to pretend we believe in something we don't.

READ MORE: Donations to Scottish Labour hit £1 million under Anas Sarwar leadership

"And I am not going to pretend there is some quick fix. We are a pro-UK party. We want to fundamentally reform and renew the UK. And we will try and persuade people to come with us to build that journey together."

Scottish Labour has suffered a series of devastating election results since the 2014 referendum when it backed the pro-UK side with voters in former heartlands moving over to the SNP.

More than seven years on the party, which will today unveil a new thistle emblem to replace the red rose, still faces a major challenge about how to win those once loyal supporters back.

In the interview Mr Sarwar conceded there was no one "magic" solution but suggested his strategy was to expose shortcomings in the Scottish Government record of delivery on domestic issues such as health, education and justice while appealing to disillusioned Yes voters holding out for "the false hope" of independence and a new referendum.

READ MORE: Labour's Anas Sarwar proposes 'Milly's Law' to hand bereaved families improved rights

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly promised Indyref2 since the Brexit vote in 2016, but has yet to deliver on a new referendum with one now planned for next year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May refused to agree a new vote unlike David Cameron who agreed to a transfer of powers to Holyrood to hold a legally binding referendum in 2014.

Mr Sarwar's comments to The Herald come as Labour prepares to set out its position on how to reform the UK and increase devolution under a review led by former PM Gordon Brown.

The constitution remains the most difficult policy matter for the party with its voters divided on the issue. Last month leaked internal showed almost a third of Labour voters support a second referendum on independence.

This has prompted some in the party to argue for a less hard line pro-UK stance.

A senior source told the Sunday Times in January: “Yes we are a pro-Unionist party but we are a broad church. That means you could have candidates who back independence. You don’t have to have a binary position; you can have people with different stances.”

Those comments - rejected by Mr Sarwar - were quickly seized on by the Tories with the party committing to only standing “pro-UK candidates in May’s local elections.”

Some of the seats Labour held at May’s Holyrood election – for instance deputy leader Jackie Baillie’s Dumbarton – was as a result of tactical voting by pro-UK Scots who turned to the candidate they thought had the best chance of defeating the SNP. It is clear this approach remains part of the party's strategy ahead of the council elections in May when Labour hope to win back pro-Union Tory voters amid the partygate crisis surrounding Mr Johnson’s premiership.

Responding to Mr Sarwar, SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: “Instead of rearranging flowers in a logo, Anas Sarwar needs to wake up and smell the roses.

"While he concentrates on inconsequential nonsense, he shirks away from the single biggest issue driving his party's failure in Scotland - the constitution.
"Until he ends his Trump-like denial of democracy by accepting Scotland’s right to choose self-governance in an independence referendum, his party will continue to slide into irrelevance."