ANAS Sarwar has said a Labour government will have an “opportunity to reset devolution and take it back to its founding principles”.

The Scottish Labour leader told his party’s conference in Glasgow on Friday afternoon that Holyrood can “feel as distant” as Westminster.

Sarwar claimed that a Labour win at the upcoming General Election and Holyrood in 2026 would allow the party to make changes to the devolution settlement.

He suggested that “every layer” of democracy in the UK is “broken” and that a Labour government would abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a second chamber.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar mocked for vowing to 'stand up to Keir Starmer'

However, we previously reported that Labour were already considering rowing back on this pledge and making reforms to hereditary peers instead.

Following the speech, a Scottish Labour spokesperson insisted to The National that the party was working on the assumption that the Lords would be "replaced in the first term" of a Starmer government, despite reports to the contrary. 

Speaking at the SEC in Glasgow, Sarwar made several jibes at the SNP, including joking about the row around Michael Matheson’s iPad bill and deleted Covid WhatsApp messages.

Noting that in May the Scottish Parliament will be celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Glasgow MSP said: “Conference, a Labour government will be an opportunity to reset devolution and take it back to its founding principles.

“Because a quarter of a century on from when our Parliament was created, our opponents have failed to make devolution work for the people of Scotland.”

Sarwar told the audience that devolution wasn’t meant to be “about two governments fighting each other”.

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“Devolution was always meant to be about Scottish solutions to Scottish problems,” he added.

“And two governments working together when in our national interest to actually deliver for Scotland.

“Neither was devolution meant to be about centralising power away from communities - it was meant to be about empowering local communities.

“So ask people in the Western Isles, in Inverness, or in Orkney if they think devolution has moved power closer to them?

“For them, and so many other places, Holyrood can feel as distant as Westminster.

“Every layer of our democracy is broken.”

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Sarwar then backed former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown’s plan to replace the Lords with a second chamber representing the nations and regions of the UK, adding that the party would “clean up Westminster”.

He added: "But let's not pretend that we don't have to clean up Holyrood too - we do.

"We have to end the culture of secrecy and cover-up, stop wasting public money, push power out and empower communities and the people of Scotland.

“That's what change means. That's why change matters.”

Sarwar also told the conference that Holyrood has been a “social policy parliament, rather than an economic policy parliament” since its founding.

He said it was important to acknowledge where the Scottish Parliament has “fallen short” as he addressed party activists.

The National:

“Holyrood has overseen sweeping social change, from the smoking ban to same-sex marriage to free personal care, but we have been very much a social policy parliament, rather than an economic policy parliament- that has let down Scottish employers and Scottish workers,” Sarwar said.

He added that social change “is only possible with a strong, growing economy” as he accused the Scottish Government of using taxation as a “substitute” for economic growth, adding there needs to be a “new business case for Scotland”.

In the lengthy speech, Sarwar repeated that he was not a supporter of independence or having another referendum, but urged SNP voters to vote for his party to put Keir Starmer in Downing Street.

“While we may disagree on the final destination for Scotland, I believe we can all agree we need change right now,” he said.

“So let’s go on this part of the journey together and deliver that change and get rid of this Tory Government.”

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He also said Scottish Labour will work to speed up the planning system if it wins the 2026 Holyrood election.

The current system is “too slow, under-resourced and is preventing development in our cities and rural areas”, adding that projects that were “identified as drivers of economic growth” would be prioritised.

Closing his speech, Sarwar added: “Our opponents don’t want change.

“They are the parties of the status quo – Scottish Labour is now the only party of change.”