Anas Sarwar has won the Scottish Labour leadership contest after a snap election triggered by the surprise resignation of Richard Leonard six weeks ago.
Sarwar, a former deputy leader of Scottish Labour backed by a majority of the party’s parliamentarians, defeated the other candidate Monica Lennon, a less experienced MSP backed on the party’s left, winning 57.56% of the vote.
Sarwar, 37, faces an uphill battle to save Labour from what the polls suggest could be another humiliating Holyrood election in May.
After losing every Scottish and UK election since 2007 to the SNP, including losing all its MEPs in the 2016 European elections, Labour has since gone through seven Scottish leaders. Sarwar will be its eighth.
Leonard had been one of the longest serving since devolution but resigned suddenly after deciding he was unable to led the party successfully into another election.
The polls put Labour third behind the Scottish National party, which is on course for a comfortable victory and possibly a majority of seats in Holyrood, and the Scottish Conservatives.
The latest poll by Ipsos Mori, produced for STV last week, put Labour on 15% in the constituency vote, with the SNP on 52% and the Tories on 23%.
Although Sarwar has been an MP and MSP for 10 of the last 11 years, and is the son of the UK’s first Muslim MP Mohammad Sarwar, the survey found a majority of voters were ambivalent about him.
It showed 44% of all those polled had no opinion about whether he or Lennon would be the best Scottish Labour leader, while 28% thought he would be and 25% preferred Lennon. AmongLabour voters, 40% thought he would be best and 35% opted for Lennon.
Lennon, a former council planning officer, won plaudits and international recognition last year after steering a private members bill through Holyrood that made Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products.
That led Vogue magazine to make her one of 12 women who changed the world in 2020, alongside Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, and Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand.