Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has pledged to form a “credible alternative” to the SNP in the next five years, despite the party’s worst performance north of the border since devolution.

The party returned 22 MSPs, down from 24 in 2016, but the head of the party – himself only in post for 10 weeks – managed to counter polls which had them falling even further.

When he took over, Mr Sarwar was facing down poll numbers as low as 14%, with some considering the Scottish Greens as a possibility for third place at the expense of Labour.

Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar was able to counter dismal poll numbers ahead of the election (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Sarwar insisted in the closing weeks of the campaign he was not running to be first minister in this election, but would have his eyes on Bute House in 2026.

As the final results came in, he said: “We’re on a journey to build a credible alternative to the SNP.

“Not just oppose the SNP, but to build a credible alternative. And that job doesn’t stop with this election campaign.

“I think even my harshest critics would accept we have run an energetic and enthusiastic campaign, we got Labour back on the pitch.

“That is something for us to build on for the next five years.”

One Labour candidate also made history, as Pam Duncan-Glancy became the first permanent wheelchair user to be elected to Holyrood.

Former Labour MP Paul Sweeney also took a seat at Holyrood on the Glasgow list along with Ms Duncan-Glancy.