ANAS Sarwar’s defiance over the numerous dodgy deals struck with the Tories across Scotland’s local authorities sums up the problem with Scottish Labour.

Although he believes that he led his party to an astounding almost-victory at the local elections, in reality they made gains because of the Tory vote bottoming out due to a combination of Westminster scandals and Douglas Ross’s persistent U-turns on whether or not Boris Johnson should stay as Prime Minister. There is no great Labour renaissance in Scotland, they simply mopped up the Unionist voters who didn’t want to go blue.

I put this to Sarwar at the Glasgow vote count, asking if Ross had done him a favour by flip-flopping over Johnson, and he replied that if he did, he didn’t do it intentionally. Any self-awareness there was then, is now gone.

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The SNP still returned the biggest vote share out of all parties of 34.1% (+1.8) while the Greens also saw a boost in support to 6% (+1.8), but while Labour were the second-largest party on 21.7% and overtook the Tories 19.6% (-5.8), they had a smaller increase in voters (+1.6).

Local elections have a notoriously low turnout, but in 2017, Labour lost an astonishing 133 councillors – that election aside, the 2022 poll was Scottish Labour’s worst result since 1977 when they lost 146 seats.

If the party had any sort of political instinct left, they would campaign for a general election on the basis that they do support democracy, and that Starmer would grant a Section 30 order if he was Prime Minister. They are well within their rights to provide a positive case for the Union, if they can find one, and voters would appreciate the honesty and willingness to engage in the debate. But they won’t, and it just shows the level of sheer ignorance within the party ranks at both leadership levels.

It’s also no secret that there are those within Scottish Labour who are pro-independence – ignoring that demographic is a mistake that will inevitably backfire, as it already has.

Sarwar epitomises the problem by asserting the belief that “demand for independence” would fall if there was a Labour government in Westminster. It won’t. It is the Westminster system that is broken, even if Starmer does end up as PM that won’t change.

And by insisting that Labour councillors have not made any backroom deals with Tories when you only have to look at the make-up of those administrations in Edinburgh and elsewhere and expecting the electorate to buy that, is mind-boggling.

We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and if the Tories in Westminster cling to power until 2024, their policy decisions will entrench inequalities and poverty that we in Scotland are so desperately trying to mitigate.

The National and Sunday National’s relentless coverage of this issue has clearly struck a nerve with Sarwar, claiming that our newspapers make accusations that are “untrue” in respect to his councillors’ decisions, but it is there in black and white – Scottish Labour would rather work with the Tories than the SNP, and it will be the hammer that puts the final nail in the coffin of his party.