ANAS Sarwar has vowed Scottish Labour politicians are “expected” to join picket lines – despite Keir Starmer's ban on his shadow cabinet joining striking workers.

Last year, the UK Labour leader sacked shadow transport minister Sam Tarry after he ignored the picket line ban to stand alongside the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

Speaking at the STUC Congress in Dundee, Sarwar told attendees that he expects his politicians to join the front line of the strikes – and later insisted his policy opposing Starmer’s was not a “clash”.

“I will always stand alongside you, and that means from the picket lines to the Parliament,” Sarwar said.

“The party I lead doesn't think about whether our elected members should join picket lines.

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“I expect my shadow cabinet, I expect my MSPs, I expect my councillors, I expect, hopefully many, MPs to be joining the frontline, joining picket lines, listening to the concerns of workers.

“That is more important now than ever before, as the cost of living crisis causes destitution, and public services fight for survival while Scotland has two failed governments.”

Sarwar claimed the SNP are “unwilling to stand up for workers” and said the Tories would attack workers' rights.

“So it once again falls to Labour to stand up for the cause of working people,” he added.

The National: Sarwar insisted the opposing policy positions were not a 'clash'Sarwar insisted the opposing policy positions were not a 'clash'

Sarwar also said in his speech that under the surface the SNP is “something that is not all that different from the Tories”, and repeatedly attacked the Scottish Government’s record, as well as the UK's.

Following his speech, on the final day of the three-day congress in Caird Hall, Sarwar was asked if he thinks Starmer is a “good enough” trade unionist.

“He’s absolutely a trade unionist, he’s absolutely a leader that wants to deliver for working people across the country,” Sarwar replied.

“But it's on the record my position around what I believe our relationship is, he has to focus on being the prime minister of our country.”

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Sarwar said in his speech that he hoped Scottish Labour would return “many” MPs, but current only have one.

The Scottish Labour leader was asked if Ian Murray, Edinburgh South, should join picket lines – as he is both a member of the Scottish arm of the party and the shadow cabinet in his role as shadow Scottish Secretary.

“Ian Murray should listen to workers on the frontline,” Sarwar said, “and I know he's been engaging with workers that are in disputes, and I know he's been making the case in argument for them, and I know he'll continue to do that.”

Asked if Murray should be on picket lines, Sarwar said: “I think he has been talking to workers on the front line, and I'm sure he'll continue to do that, particularly in his constituency.”

The National: The two leaders have different positions on joining striking workersThe two leaders have different positions on joining striking workers

Sarwar would not be drawn on whether or not he believed Starmer’s approach to strikers was the correct one.

He said: “It’s for Keir Starmer to decide what his frontbenchers do, what his shadow cabinet members do.

“I'm very clear about what's expected of my frontbenchers and my shadow cabinet.”

Sarwar insisted that there was no “clash” between the two opposing positions.

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When The National pointed out it didn’t exactly help Scottish Labour to have such diverging policy positions on an important issue, Sarwar said: “I mean you can see its not helping us, but if you look at where we were a year ago in the opinion polls and where we are now. I think we're doing alright.”

Asked if he believed that was due to his vision or the failure of other political parties, he said: “Well, look, it's a combination, I can only obviously thank other political parties for being in the utter chaos that they’re in, for demonstrating how out of touch they are with the people's priorities.

“But we are also going to give people a positive alternative destination and that's what we are doing.”