THE public hunger for change that is set to sweep the Conservatives from power at Westminster will roll on and hit the SNP at Holyrood next, Anas Sarwar has predicted.

The Scottish Labour leader said the lack of decency, honesty and transparency exhibited by the Tories was now also affecting the Nationalists.

He said Nicola Sturgeon's iron grip on her party was "coming to end"  as voters lost trust in a Scottish Government that had repeatedly over-promised and under-delivered.

"When governments lose the public's trust, they deserve to lose the election. 

"The SNP is losing trust, they're out of control, and I think it's getting clearer by the day that not only do the Tories deserve to lose an election, I think the SNP do too."

Speaking ahead of Scottish Labour’s spring conference in Edinburgh this weekend, Mr Sarwar also questioned Ms Sturgeon’s plan for a legal fight with Westminster over Holyrood’s controversial gender reforms, saying cooperation was a “better approach”. 

The conference comes almost two years since the Glasgow MSP replaced the un-mourned Richard Leonard as Scottish leader, a period which has seen an upturn in the party's fortunes, albeit thanks to self-inflicted Tory chaos.

Scottish Labour overtook the Tories in last year's council elections to come second, and the polls suggest it could add around a dozens MPs to its current total of one at the general election.

The theme of the conference isn't hard to spot. There are six debates about "change" of various kinds.

It's a mantra that Mr Sarwar hopes will be infectious, as he fights to oust first the Tories and then the SNP.

It may be catchy, but it's also vague. 

So the conference will flesh out some of the policies he needs to persuade voters that there's more to Labour than not being the other lot. 

“The easy bit of politics is to tell people why your opponents are bad, and they're making lots of mistakes and why they deserve to lose," he said. 

"The hard part, and the more important part, is demonstrating why you deserve to win. And that for me is the big priority of this conference and the big priority of 2023." 

Sir Keir Starmer, who addresses delegates on Sunday, announced last year that he would set up a publicly-owed energy generation company in Year One if Labour returns to power.

Mr Sarwar said the conference would focus on health and care, the cost-of-living and economic growth, including the business plan for the Scottish arm of Great British Energy, which he hopes will create around 20,000 green jobs north of the border.

The pitch also includes presenting Labour as a party you can trust - no Boris Johnson sleaze, no Liz Truss lunacy, no overblown SNP hype.

He said: “I think there is a hunger for change in the country. I think our politics has been degraded. 

"I think we have lost the politics of integrity, of decency, of honesty, of transparency of accountability. 

"People will naturally think of a UK Tory government when I use those adjectives, but actually many also apply to this SNP Scottish Government.

“We can create a politics across the UK that's about integrity, that's about decency, that's about honesty, that's about transparency, that's about values and is about positive change."

He sees the SNP as suffering from the same late-phase symptoms as the Tory government - tired, flat, can't deliver, feuding amongst themselves.
 "The more you look at the SNP, the more you can see divisions they've had hidden bubbling to the surface. 

"It's a political party that's running out of energy, running out of ideas, has lost the air of any kind of competence. 

"They’re looking more and more out of control, more and more arrogant, every day. And there comes a point where people say, You know what, I think the UK does need to change. Labour’s going to deliver that change.

“I think people will then say, Scotland needs to change. And again, I believe Labour can be that change.”

He cites the troubled deposit return scheme as an example of a good concept being shoddily executed.

“We get the big picture and the big push, then they mess up the detail. 

"We all want to increase recycling rates across the country. We all want to confront the climate emergency.

"But what people don't want to do is see their household bills go up, the cost of the shopping go up, businesses shut down, jobs being lost, and for us to score an economic own goal here in Scotland and that's exactly what's happening now with the DRS scheme. 

"It goes back to that same old approach where Nicola Sturgeon is right and everyone else is wrong.”

He avoids speculating too eagerly about Ms Sturgeon’s future but clearly reckons her time is running out. 

“Eventually political gravity does catch up. It’s catching up with the SNP. It’s catching up with Nicola Sturgeon. Ultimately that’s a matter for the SNP what they do with their leader.” 

Ms Sturgeon is currently under pressure over gender reforms and the trans prisoner Isla Bryson, who raped two women as Adam Graham.

Asked if Bryson is a man or a woman, he said: “Isla Bryson, committed rape, rape is committed by a man, and therefore should be treated as such and therefore that individual should be nowhere near a woman's prison.

"I don't care how they choose to identify themselves at the moment. The fact is that a man commits rape, a rape was committed, they were convicted and they should be treated in such a way.”

However he defends the recent Holyrood Bill intended to replace a medical verification system for gender certificates with an honesty system. 

His “huge regret” is the Scottish Government refused to accept more safeguards, including protecting safe spaces based on biological sex.

He also rejects Ms Sturgeon’s plan to challenge the UK Government veto of the Bill in court, saying the dispute should be resolved by cooperation between Edinburgh and London, with guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

He said: “Everyone has lost out. Women have lost out here, in terms of feeling like their rights are under attack.

"I think our trans community has lost out because no one can pretend that transphobia has been fought head-on in the last two months, I think it’s probably been amplified because we’ve had a bad faith approach.

“I think we were right to support the simplification of the GRC process, but we need those other parts to happen around the protection of single-sex spaces.

“I think the Scottish Government have made their mind up that they want to go to court over this issue. The better approach would be for both governments to act in good faith and find a resolution.

"I'm a consensus politician not a conflict politician.”