ANAS Sarwar has ruled out claims his party would allow pro-independence candidates to stand in upcoming elections.

The Scottish Labour shot down claims made by a senior party source in the Sunday Times, saying the person quoted “clearly doesn't understand that decisions on selecting candidates in Scotland”.

After Sarwar’s New Year speech on Monday, he said: “Firstly, whoever it was that was speaking or quoted clearly doesn't understand that decisions on selecting candidates in Scotland, even for a general election, are made by the Scottish Labour party and the Scottish Labour party alone.”

He added: "We will be standing on a platform in the UK general election which is about reforming and renewing the UK, which is, yes, about pushing power out of Westminster and into the nations and regions of the UK, but also pushing it out of Holyrood and into local communities across the country as well.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar urged to rule out pacts with Tories ahead of election

"And that's what we'd expect every candidate to stand on."

He added: "On the question directly of candidates, we will be a pro-UK party standing for a reformed and renewed UK, and all our candidates would be expected to abide by that manifesto, so that we can have a Prime Minister that is for the whole of the United Kingdom."

He continued: “Whoever was doing the story on Sunday probably doesn't have as much of an understanding of Scottish politics as I, or people on this call, do.”

The Scottish Labour leader said the party would welcome people who had backed Yes during the first referendum but had since changed their minds.

He said: “There is clearly a difference between candidates, individuals, who supported independence in 2014, and want our country to move on, want our country to reform and renew, whether that is across the UK or indeed within Scotland.”

Sarwar also spoke about his relationship with UK Labour leader Keir Starmer: “I've said this to him directly, and I say it publicly - when it comes to Scotland, when it comes to Scottish Labour, I'm in charge, I'm the boss. We decide Scottish Labour selection processes in Scotland. “

In his New Year speech, Sarwar was accused of demonstrating “why Scottish Labour continue to be in political wilderness in Scotland”.

The National: File photo dated 16/09/14 of supporters at a Yes Rally in George Square ahead of voting in the Scottish independence referendum. A majority of people in Scotland would vote for independence if there was a no-deal Brexit, polling has suggested. PRESS

The Scottish Labour leader hit back at claims his party will allow pro-independence candidates to stand in elections

SNP MSP Paul McLennan hit out at the Scottish Labour leader for “lacking substance” in his speech to mark 2022.

Sarwar said both the Tories and the SNP are seeking to divide the public “in their own way” as he claimed “nobody takes responsibility” in Scottish politics.

Sarwar admitted Scottish Labour has a long way to go to earning back the trust of Scots but said Labour’s best days are ahead of them.

The last few elections have seen dire results for Scottish Labour, with the party falling into third place after the SNP and the Tories.

He went on to accuse the UK and Scottish Governments of dividing Scots.

He said: “Scotland has two governments that seek to divide in their own way, both wanting to force you to pick a side.

The National: Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar speaks at the Labour Party conference in Brighton

Anas Sarwar accused the SNP and the Tories of dividing Scots

“Labour, under my leadership, will always be on your side because when you look at the behaviour of the two other main parties in Scotland, the SNP and the Tories, it is no wonder Scots are feeling disconnected from the decision making in our country.

“We have a prime minister, to put it bluntly, that is disastrous and incompetent. We have a First Minister that is divisive and increasingly disconnected - someone who wants us to come through this pandemic, and divide us all over again.

“The Tories have no understanding of the needs and desires of Scottish communities. And in the SNP, I believe Scotland's been let down by oversight, and the growing arrogance of power.

“And I say that candidly, as the leader of a party, which many believe grew arrogant in power itself.

“When politicians or parties begin to believe they're untouchable, or unbeatable, they begin to lose touch, become distant, and take people for granted. I believe that it's happening to this SNP government.

“And that's not good for Scotland. The Tories are out of ideas, the SNP only has one idea. But I believe that our ideas bigger than independence, and building the future needs those bigger, bolder, brighter ideas.”

The SNP dismissed the criticism, saying Labour’s position would subject Scots to a Tory government they didn’t vote for.

READ MORE: SNP MP rubbishes claim Labour may allow pro-independence candidates

SNP MSP McLennan said: "Anas Sarwar demonstrated why Scottish Labour continue to be in political wilderness in Scotland - they would continue to subject the people of Scotland to Tory governments they did not vote for.

"The speech lacked any substance and failed to address the elephant in the room – that the people of Scotland have already voted to put their future into their own hands with an independence referendum.

"Labour’s unpopularity in Scotland was demonstrated by how Sarwar was essentially begging for people to come forward to stand in an election that is just four months away.

"Until Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour stop working with the Tories to deny democracy then they will continue to slide into irrelevance."