We have invited all major political parties in Scotland to take part in an interview ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections on May 6. In this instalment we speak to the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar.

Q. What is your party planning to do in the Borders, in particular?

A. I have put front and centre of this entire election campaign the need for us to have a national recovery.

We can only credibly have a recovery that works for everyone if we recognise that the recovery must be urban, rural, coastal, island, north, south, as well as central belt. That is why we have got to push power and resource down to local communities across the country – outwith our parliaments into local communities so you can shape your own recovery and your own local economy.

That is why I want much more investment in the local economy in the south. I want us to expand the Borderlands Growth Deal.

I want us to have a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency that has real teeth and real power and has money behind it.

I also want us to diversify our public transport system so we can have a Borders Railway that can give you that connectivity, so we can shape and diversify our economy.

Q. Like many local authorities, Scottish Borders Council has recently declared a climate emergency. What is your party doing to tackle the issue?

A. We will be unveiling a climate recovery plan as part of our election campaign.

We are not publishing a manifesto. We are publishing a national recovery plan. One key part of that will be our climate recovery. That means investing in the new technologies of the future.

It means investing in the new economies of the future.

It means creating employment around renewables. It means making sure we are supporting all parts of Scotland to be part of that fight to tackle the climate emergency.

It is not just about personal behaviour. It is also about how we drive change in our decision-making so we can have that kind of economic model for the future which can help us challenge the climate emergency.

It is a huge challenge. You guys know this living in the Borders. Climate change does not recognise borders.

It requires international co-operation and that is why I want the COP 26, that we are going to have in Glasgow in November, to be a real symbol of our international co-operation, our international leadership, and I also want us to go away from COP 26 with a Glasgow agreement that is going to be the starting point of us turning around the fight against climate change right around the world.

Q. If you became the First Minister of Scotland, what would be the first thing you would do?

A. Do you want me to say I am going to phone the Border Telegraph and speak to them? That is what you want me to say!

But the first thing we need to do is get serious about what our parliament is all about and what unifies our parliament.

We must unify our parliament around challenging child poverty, around getting people back to work, around restarting our NHS.

We are focusing on cancer services and mental health services, in particular.

As part of that, we are also making sure we are protecting the planet for our children and our grandchildren.

That national recovery plan will be my first and most important, and only, priority in parliament.

Q. Recently, you had to deal with some awful abuse outside the Scottish Parliament. How big a problem do you think racism is in Scotland?

A. I would love to say to you it is a one-off occurrence. It is something that I am aware of and have to deal with and learn to live with on an almost daily basis.

Of course there are challenges in Scotland. Of course we have challenges around racism, around Islamophobia, around anti-Semitism, around homophobia and around sexism; because Scotland, like any other country, is not immune to those kinds of prejudice.

But I think what the vast majority of people in Scotland are unified around is challenging all forms of prejudice and hate.

We can’t disconnect the way we do our politics and the 'us versus them' narratives and the divisiveness of our politics from the way people then treat each other either online or in our communities.

That is why I have promised to be, and I am committed to be, a leader which unites us as a country, not what divides us.

Q. Would you describe yourself as a socialist?

A. Absolutely. I would describe myself as a socialist.

I am a proud member of the Labour Party. It is the honour of my life to lead the Labour Party in Scotland.

I honestly think, coming through this pandemic, we need Labour values now more than ever.

The challenge that I have is giving the people of Scotland the Labour Party they deserve, so we can all build a country that we need.

That is the entire focus of my election campaign – a national recovery. I want the next parliament to be focused on those issues. Not going back to the old arguments, not egos and not settling scores.

Q. Why do you think your party has collapsed in Scotland in recent years at the polls?

A. We have had a difficult time since devolution. Our party has only ever decreased the share of the vote from election to election since we had the advent of the Scottish Parliament.

I think, at times, our party has not come to terms with devolution and devolved itself, even though we created devolution and we championed the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

I think we have had challenges of looking like we are talking to ourselves, rather than talking to the country.

It has looked like we are more fixated on the past rather than representing and speaking for Scotland’s future.

I am determined to rebuild this party. To get it back on track.

I am not naïve about the scale of the challenge on that.

I want to give the people of Scotland the Labour Party they deserve and I am working day and night to do that.

Q. If everyone in Scotland voted for the SNP, would you still oppose holding a second independence referendum?

A. I am one of those rare breeds of politician that believes that politicians should say what they think, be straight-talking and be honest.

If I don’t believe in something, I am not going to argue for it.

People would expect their politicians to be honest and say it like it is.

I don’t support independence, I don’t support an independence referendum.

And if I don’t support something, I am not going to argue for it.

My job in this election campaign is to try and persuade people across Scotland that we can focus on something else. Something bigger and something bolder and something more ambitious.

That is a national recovery that builds a stronger and fairer Scotland.

I will continue to do that over the next six weeks, so we can have a parliament that will do that over the next five years.