ANAS Sarwar swerved questions on whether he would stand in a Glasgow Southside by-election, saying the prospect was "hypothetical" at the moment.

There's mounting speculation that Nicola Sturgeon could soon quit as an MSP, with the former first minister coming under increasing pressure over the SNP's funding woes and facing more questions about what she knew about the party's financial situation. 

The ex-leader will not be at Holyrood this week, with her spokesperson claiming it had “always” been her plan to stay away in order to leave the limelight to her successor Humza Yousaf.

However, no date has been given for her return other than “the near future”.

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Mr Sarwar came a distant second to Ms Strurgeon at the last Holyrood vote in 2021, winning 10,279 votes to her 19,735.

He was then elected on Labour’s list and would need to stand down so he could stand in any by-election. 

“I don't think it's a credible argument to say Nicola Sturgeon has resigned so you should resign as well,” he told journalists at a Scottish Labour event in Glasgow. 

“I would put it much wider than that. 

“If Nicola Sturgeon is going to resign - of course, this is for Nicola Sturgeon, it's a matter for the SNP, not a matter for me - I'm more interested in us having a wider election, not just an election in one constituency. 

“We need a government that's on the side of people across this country. So let's call an election. 

“Let's let people decide what the priorities are and elect a functioning government in Scotland.” 

The Herald:

Mr Sarwar said he thought it unlikely Mr Yousaf would agree to a snap vote. 

The SNP’s troubles have given Scottish Labour a boost in recent weeks.

The party is confident they can take a substantial number of seats off the SNP at the next general election, and even possibly form the next Scottish Government. 

Mr Sarwar said Scottish Labour had got its "mojo back."

He said voters were being badly served by a “morally bankrupt Tory Party” and an SNP  “trying not to go bankrupt.” 

"But it’s not enough for them to simply deserve to lose," he added, Labour needed to "deserve to win." 

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During what was billed as a “keynote” speech in the First Minister’s Glasgow Pollok constituency, Mr Sarwar repeated his call on Mr Yousaf to hold an early Holyrood election. 

“We cannot allow the next three years to be a lost three years.

“We can’t allow this NHS crisis, the cost-of-living crisis, our education crisis, the crisis in almost every institution in our country, to run for three years as we come to the end of an SNP Government.”

He added: “We’re focused on the future and we’re coming for the SNP, we’re coming for the Tories. Because this country needs change and we are going to deliver it.

“We’ve got our energy back, got our mojo back, we’re excited about elections. There was a time Labour feared elections. I can’t wait for the elections.

“I can’t wait for 2024, I can’t wait for 2026, because change is coming and we’re going to deliver that change.” 

He also refused to be drawn on whether he would stand against Mr Yousaf at the next Holyrood election, saying Labour were “nowhere near selecting our candidates for 2026.”

However, he said the SNP leader - who lives in Brought Ferry - had been referred to him by one constituent as the "MSP for Glasgow Tayside." 

Mr Sarwar said Mr Yousaf “feels very remote and very distant from this community.” 

He also told journalists that there were parallels between what was happening with the SNP just now and the end of Labour’s dominance in Scotland.

“If you think about the accusations that were made against my own party, many people said that we looked like we were out of touch and arrogant in power and that it was time for a change. 

“I think the very things that they accused us of - some of them unfairly, some of them fairly - I think those very things are now completely symptomatic of this current SNP government. 

“It's a political party that is now so divided, it's so distracted, that it's not governing in the interests of the people of Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar said the SNP had “more than their fair share of time and they not used that power wisely.” 

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Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “Anas Sarwar’s claim that Labour are the answer to this failing and hopelessly-divided SNP government might have some credibility if his party didn’t vote with, and back, the Nationalists the vast majority of the time. 

“There was no mention in this rehashed speech of him forcing his MSPs to ignore the Scottish public and back Nicola Sturgeon’s dangerous GRR Bill, or Labour standing side by side with the Nationalists and Greens in abandoning Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

“His absurd claim that only Labour can take seats from the SNP at the next election is untrue – and he knows it. In a whole swathe of constituencies, particularly in the north and south of Scotland, only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP.

“Similarly, only the Scottish Conservatives can be trusted to stand up to the SNP and preserve Scotland’s place in the Union.”