ELECTION 2021: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar recounts childhood memories of Moray
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HEADING into the Scottish Election in May, there will be more than one party leader with strong links to Moray.
Conservative leader Douglas Ross, from Forres, is the area's MP – but newly-appointed Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has tight ties to the area, too.
Back in the 1940s, Anas Sarwar's grandfather Ghulam Mohammed moved from Pakistan to the United Kingdom, along with Anas' mother Perveen who was just four at the time, and settled in Lossiemouth.
Mr Mohammed worked as a door-to-door clothes salesman until he had enough money to open a shop on the town's Clifton Road.
Anas' mother moved away from the area to Glasgow, where Anas himself was born, but the family connection to Moray has remained – with uncles, aunties and cousins in Elgin, Lossie and Buckie.
His uncles helped set up Elgin Mosque and are now part of a Muslim community in Moray which, in stark contrast to when his grandfather moved to the area 75 years ago, is thriving.
Anas' parents also got married in Lossiemouth.
Speaking to the Northern Scot, Anas said: "Lossie and Elgin are so close to me. My grandfather came across in the 40s and fell in love with the place.
"He brought his family over and stayed his whole life.
"I spent all my summer holidays as a child in Lossiemouth. Nothing beats Lossie beach on a nice day, visiting La Caverna and popping into Miele's for an ice cream.
"I loved the summer camp by Lossie beach, going swimming at Elgin Leisure Centre, drinking Moray Cup and eating butteries.
"One of the plus sides of the election campaign will be travelling north to see my family and some well-kent local faces."
Mr Sarwar – who launched his bid to become deputy leader of Labour in Lossie in 2011 – is more than aware that Moray is far from a Labour stronghold at the moment, but hopes a local connection to the party in parliament can help matters.
He added: "If a local connection helps then that's great. I would encourage people in Moray and across the north-east to take a look at Labour again.
"We were at 14 per cent in the opinion polls before I became labour leader. I'd love to say I've done enough to swing things, but I don't think people would think I was living in the real world if I said that.
"That's why we want people to use their list vote to vote for us. We are voting for the opposition as well as the government in this election.
"We should stop an SNP majority but we also need an opposition who are going to bring forward positive ideas."
Moray Labour chairman Sandy Keith fondly remembers times spent with Mr Sarwar, and believes his Moray link can help the party improve their result in the area.
He said: "Labour has often been portrayed as a central belt party, but the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, was from Moray.
"I think Anas' links to the area can give us a boost. We are not allowed to canvas at the moment because of lockdown but we are hearing that people here like Anas.
"We hope that is going to lead to an increase in our vote share.
"We want to get back to the stage whereby if people want Labour they vote for Labour. We have people who vote SNP to keep out the Tories and vice versa. If these people voted for us they would get us."
- Local school teacher Jo Kirby is the Labour candidate for Moray, and she will be standing against the SNP's Richard Lochhead, the Conservatives' Tim Eagle and Liberal Democrat Sheila Ritchie.