Scottish Labour has recorded its worst-ever election result north of the Border since devolution, with the party down two MSPs to 22 compared with 2016.
The party continued its downward trend finishing third behind the Tories and SNP, despite new leader Anas Sarwar enjoying strong personal approval ratings among Scots since taking over the top job.
Mr Sarwar, who has only been in the leadership role for ten weeks, insisted his party is “on a journey” to build “a credible alternative to the SNP” and “back on the pitch” after an “energetic and enthusiastic” campaign.
“We are significantly ahead of where we were just ten weeks ago, and I’m incredibly proud of everything our activists have achieved,” he said, adding that Scottish Labour has “a credibility again” and that people “aren’t embarrassed anymore to say they’re voting Labour”.
After delivering a credible nine-point increase in his party’s vote share in Glasgow Southside but ultimately losing the seat to Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Sarwar will return to Holyrood via the Glasgow regional list.
His hopes of a Labour revival in the country it once dominated suffered a particular blow when it lost a stronghold in East Lothian to the SNP, although deputy leader Jackie Baillie helped scupper the nationalists’ chance of a majority after she increased her share of the vote in Dumbarton by six percentage points.
James Mitchell, professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh, said the “fundamental problem” for the party is that “they haven’t got a distinct position on the constitution”.
Mr Sarwar faced a barrage of criticism from both sides of the independence debate throughout the campaign, with the Tories claiming he is “soft” on the question while the SNP has accused his party of “sitting on the fence” over key issues affecting Scotland.
“Independence is the dominant issue, and as long as there’s that binary divide they’re in trouble because the Tories will always be seen as the most unionist party and the SNP the most nationalist,” Prof Mitchell told the Telegraph.
“Scottish Labour have two options: they can either successfully move the agenda on from independence, which they have failed to do, or they can be really bold and set out a distinct position,” he added.
But a major problem for the party is that while the SNP’s record on health and education in particular is “not good”, centre left voters who might otherwise switch to Labour “are looking at these issues through the prism of the constitution”, he said.
“You think you see good things even though they might not be there.”
However, there were celebrations across the political spectrum as the Glasgow regional list saw the election of its first ever permanent wheelchair user to Holyrood.
Pam Duncan-Glancy, who was fourth on Labour’s list for the city, also stood as a candidate for Glasgow Kelvin but lost to the SNP's Kaukab Stewart.
Speaking to journalists at the Glasgow Emirates Arena, Ms Duncan-Glancy was tearful as she said the people of Glasgow "have literally made history".
"It feels incredible," she said, adding: "I promise to do everything in my power to make sure that the path for the next disabled MSP and permanent wheelchair user is nowhere near as hard as it's been for the first."
It comes the day after she was faced with a 45 minute battle to access Glasgow’s election count as staff “did not believe” she was a candidate.
Ms Duncan-Glancy was also told she had come to the wrong door at the arena despite it being marked as accessible.
Nicola Sturgeon Tweeted her congratulations, hailing the result as a “significant and important moment for our Parliament”.