SARAH Boyack says the Scottish Labour leadership contest offers the party the chance to restate its ambitions and reconnect with communities.
Former PM Gordon Brown and deputy leader Anas Sarwar and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale have already ruled themselves out of standing.
The Lothian MSP became the first contender to throw her hat in the ring when she announced yesterday she was bidding to succeed Johann Lamont, who quit on Friday, complaining Westminster colleagues treated the party in Scotland like “a branch office”.
Former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy and left-wing Lothian MSP Neil Findlay are both expected to join the race, but Ms Boyack’s surprise declaration has handed her a early advantage.
Ms Boyack, an MSP since the start of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and a former environment minister, said: “This leadership election is our chance to debate how we move our party forward. We need to reach out not just to those who have traditionally supported us but to build a coalition to tackle social and environmental injustice and to create a more equal, prosperous economy that works for people.”
She said the referendum had mobilised people to get involved in politics.
“We need to build on that energy. Across the country there were thousands of meetings bringing people together to discuss how we could improve people’s lives. To deliver on those ambitions we need to move the political debate on to how we use power.
“The Scottish Parliament is already a powerhouse parliament and more powers are on the way. We need to make sure that power is used in the interests of the people of Scotland.”
She said Labour had to engage with communities.
“In the next 18 months we face two electoral tests – to return Labour Governments to power in both the UK and Scottish parliaments.
“These will be watershed elections. This leadership election will set the tone for those contests. It is our chance to restate our ambitions for Scotland. It’s also the chance to rebuild our bonds with the labour movement in Scotland. It’s our chance to reconnect the Labour Party with communities across the country. To seize that opportunity we need to work as Team Labour.”
Ms Boyack helped negotiate the first Labour-Lib Dem coalition deal and served in Donald Dewar’s first cabinet. She also worked with Jim Murphy to review the party after its 2011 defeat and was a member of Labour’s devolution commission earlier this year.