Sarwar sets sights on Holyrood 2026 election after Labour landslide engulfs SNP

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he will “redouble” efforts to get his party into government at Holyrood in 2026 after wiping out almost a decade of SNP dominance of Scotland’s Westminster seats at the General Election.

Anas Sarwar’s party tore across the country’s central belt, mirroring the success of the UK-wide party and sweeping the SNP out of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

With all but one of the 57 Scottish seats declared on Friday morning, Labour held 37, the SNP nine and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each had five.

In the previous UK election in 2019, Labour returned just one MP to the SNP’s 48.

A recount in the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat will not restart until 10.30am on Saturday, delaying the final result of the General Election.

Speaking while surrounded by Scottish Labour’s new MPs in Glasgow on Friday morning, Mr Sarwar said: “People across our country will be waking up to the news that after 14 years of Conservative government, after 14 years of chaos and division, that has now come to an end and Scotland and the UK has elected a Labour government.

Map of Scotland with the seats coloured to show party wins
(PA Graphics)

“I want to say thank-you to the people of Scotland. You have put your faith and trust in us and we will work day and night to build on that.

“Today we stop the chaos, we turn the page and we start the hard work of change, and the people you see round about me today, these new Scottish Labour MPs – and aren’t there so many of them – aren’t going to Westminster to sit on the opposition benches to shout, to protest and ultimately come back with nothing.

“These Scottish Labour MPs are going to Westminster to sit on the government benches, to sit round the table, make decisions and help deliver for the people of Scotland. That’s the change that people have voted for.”

He said his party has ended “14 years of Tory chaos but there have been 17 years of SNP failure and incompetence too… so today we also redouble our efforts so we together can deliver change in 2026 with a Scottish Labour government, too”.

Mr Sarwar said he spoke to Sir Keir Starmer straight after the exit poll came out as polls closed on Thursday night, and he was “particularly delighted about the results here in Scotland”.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “He reaffirmed his commitment that he will be a prime minister for every part of our country, and that includes Scotland… he wants to deliver for Scotland.”

John Swinney, with hands raised, speaking from an SNP lectern, with a Saltire flag backdrop
Scottish First Minister John Swinney said the SNP now needs to reflect on its defeat (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ian Murray, who was re-elected in Edinburgh South after nearly five years as Scottish Labour’s only MP, has been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.

Speaking in Edinburgh in the hours after the results, First Minister John Swinney said his party “failed to convince people of the urgency of independence” during the campaign.

“Therefore, we need to take the time to consider and to reflect on how we deliver our commitment to independence – which remains absolute.

“As somebody who has devoted their entire adult life to the winning of Scottish independence – not for an abstract reason, but because I believe it will transform the lives of our people for the better – we need to get that approach correct in the forthcoming period.

“I accept that we need to engage with, listen to and learn from the people of Scotland on how we take forward our arguments for independence.”

He earlier pledged a period of “soul searching” after what he described as a “very poor” performance for the SNP, saying his party has to be “better at governing on behalf of the people of Scotland”.

In a phone call with Sir Keir Starmer on Friday evening, the First Minster committed to working co-operatively with the UK Government on “areas of mutual interest”.

Outgoing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross failed in his bid to return to Westminster.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at P&J Live arena in Aberdeen, during the count
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at P&J Live arena in Aberdeen, during the count (Michal Wachucik/PA)

Mr Ross sought election to the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat in place of former MP David Duguid, who was barred from standing by party bosses due to ill health.

His decision – which reversed an announcement he would not seek re-election to Westminster – was met with criticism from opponents and some within his own party.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Ross suggested the Reform UK vote had handed the SNP the seat.

Reform candidate Jo Hart came third with 5,562 votes, while Mr Ross trailed his SNP rival by less than 1,000.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Liberal Democrats have made a huge leap forward and are back as a major force in British politics.

“Across the UK our wins make this the best result since our party was founded, demolishing the blue wall and toppling huge chunks of the acid yellow wall of the SNP. There are far more liberals than nationalists on the benches of the House of Commons today.”

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie thanked people who voted for his party.

“We have established our party as the third political force in Glasgow and have broken new ground across the country,” he said.

“These results are an important springboard for the Scottish Greens and show that we are well on track for big gains as we approach the next Scottish election in 2026 and the local elections in 2027.”