ANAS Sarwar’s family business does not pay all of its workers the real living wage, the Scottish Labour leader has been forced to admit.

Sarwar’s admission came after he touted Labour plans for a “New Deal for Working People”, which the Labour MSP said would “lift people out of poverty” by making employers pay a “genuine living wage”.

Sarwar relinquished all of his shares in his family’s business, United Wholesale (Scotland), in 2017 after it was criticised for not paying the living wage and having no trade union recognition in place.

However, his wife, mother, and children all continue to benefit from the profits of the firm.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Sarwar was pressed on Labour’s plan to force businesses to pay all staff the real living wage – despite his family firm not doing so.

As of April 2024, the national living wage in the UK is £11.44 an hour for people aged 21 and over.

The "real living wage" – which paying is voluntary – is £12 an hour, and £13.15 in London. 

Sarwar told the BBC: “Look, we want the country to be wealthier. We want to deliver economic growth. We want people's incomes to go up.

“And that's why a centrepiece of our election campaign will be our new deal for working people, which is about banning exploitative zero hour contracts, ending the scandal of fire and rehire and delivering a genuine living wage, and that genuine living wage will lift people out of poverty.”

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Asked if Labour had calculated the cost to businesses who will need to increase wages, Sarwar said there was “no cost to the taxpayer” and that the policy would lead to growth in the economy and not “cost jobs”.

He said: “If you put more money into working people's pockets, it's evidenced that they spend more and that will increase productivity, boost our economy, and be a massive benefit right across the country.”

The Scottish Labour leader was then asked whether his family’s business pays staff the living wage.

He said: “They have a really good, strong relationship with the Usdaw [Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers], their trade union.”

Pressed again, he said: “They will have to do what everyone will have to do, which is comply with a new deal for working people that will deliver a genuine wage and they have a trade union recognition agreement with Usdaw and a very strong relationship with Usdaw.”

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Pressed again, Sarwar (above) said: “It's not my business. I have no shares in that business. It's a business that is, yes my family has an involvement in, but I have no direct involvement with that business.

“But I do know they have a strong relationship with their trade union Usdaw.”

And pressed again, he said: “Well, I don't believe that every single staff member is on the real living wage.

“But I know there have been significant increases in the wage negotiated with Usdaw, their trade union.

“And every business, including that one, will have to comply with a new deal for working people, which will deliver a genuine living wage right across the country.”

The admission led to strong criticism from the SNP, with the party's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn saying: "The family firm *do not* pay all staff the real living wage.

"Do as we say, not as we do. No wonder Labour are watering down their promises on workers right.


Pete Wishart, the SNP’s longest serving MP, said the admission was “shocking”.

“His family firm still do not pay the real living wage to all its staff. It took a while to get it out of him and no wonder he wanted to keep that appalling detail from public scrutiny,” Wishart said.