Scottish Labour deputy leadership contender Jackie Baillie has described herself as “the real change candidate” during a speech in Glasgow.
Ms Baillie, who has been the MSP for Dumbarton since the formation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, has warned the party will need to change to survive in next year’s Holyrood election.
The former cabinet minister is running against Glasgow councillor Matt Kerr in the race, for which she is considered the frontrunner – already garnering 92% support from MSPs and Scotland’s only MP Ian Murray.
Votes for Scottish Labour have been in decline in recent years, with the party reduced to third place in the 2016 Holyrood elections and only returning one MP north of the border in December’s general election.
Ms Baillie has challenged the party to shake up its electoral offering in order to win back support – while throwing her support behind current leader Richard Leonard.
The MSP was sacked by Mr Leonard from her front bench position in 2018, with the leader opting to take over the post himself – however, Ms Baillie told journalists she could “absolutely” work with the Labour leader.
In a speech to members – including MSPs Anas Sarwar, Daniel Johnson and James Kelly – Ms Baillie said: “If you think this is as good as it gets, if you think more of the same will do, then vote for the other guy.
“But if you think we can and must be better – better for our members, better for our movement and, most importantly, better for our country – then I hope I can count on your support.
“Because I am the real change candidate.”
She added: “Next year’s campaign can’t be driven by a small group advocating more of the same – focused on ideology and the past rather than electability and our hopes for the future.
“We need to open our doors, rebuild and unite the Labour Party, look outwards, not inwards, and be ruthless in our intention to win.”
She also posed a question to Labour members, asking: “Are we going to spend the next few years repeating the SNP’s criticisms of us or are we going to get off our knees?
“Are we going to throw everything we’ve got at this arrogant, rotten SNP government or spend the time fighting amongst ourselves?”
Asked to expand on her attacks on the Scottish Government, Ms Baillie told journalists: “There is a degree of complacency and arrogance in power that we’re starting to see.
“After 13 years in power, I think they’re starting to look tired.
“But I am appalled at some of the stuff they are getting away with.
“I never thought I would say in a sentence that there were children dying in our flagship hospital in Scotland – and dying needlessly.
“The amount of time we try to hold them to account and they slip away is really distressing to me and the people I represent.”
In a bid to ensure Labour councillors in Scotland were represented at the highest level of the party, Ms Baillie also pledged to put a local politician in the Labour front bench.
She told the crowd: “I pledge that there will be a councillor in the shadow cabinet.
“Not someone appointed by the leadership, but elected by our councillors to represent our councillors.”