LABOUR councillors in North Lanarkshire have been accused of agreeing a “backdoor” deal to form an administration with the Tories.
SNP politicians say the Labour councillors agreed the pact with Tories in a way that meant they wouldn’t have to seek the formal approval of Kezia Dugdale.
The Scottish Labour chief was forced to suspend all nine of her councillors in Aberdeen on Wednesday after they disobeyed the party’s governing body to prop up Ruth Davidson’s cohort in Aberdeen City Chambers.
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In return for keeping the SNP out ex-Labour politicians were given the positions of Leader and Lord Provost.
In troubled North Lanarkshire, the SNP took 33 seats to Labour’s 32, while the Tories won 10. Two independents were also elected.
The Tories backed the Labour minority administration in return for Tory group leader Meghan Gallacher becoming convenor of the authority’s Audit and Scrutiny committee.
SNP Westminster candidate Marion Fellows called it a “coalition by the backdoor”, adding: “How Labour in North Lanarkshire will sleep tonight is beyond me.” She added: “All the Labour members should be suspended for the shameful exhibition they made of themselves.”
Labour accused the SNP of putting party politics ahead of North Lanarkshire, and claimed the Nationalists had turned down an offer to chair one of the 13 committees on the council.
Labour’s Jim Logue said: “I am absolutely delighted that I’ve been appointed leader of North Lanarkshire Council. We are a council of a minority administration, now the largest Labour-controlled council in Scotland. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and building on our successful track record.”
He added: “Since 2007 the SNP government has cut £150 million from communities in North Lanarkshire. It has to stop.”
For a while it looked like Dugdale might have to also suspend Labour councillors in West Lothian, with the group there also potentially defying the leadership to sign a deal with the Tories.
All but one Labour councillor voted for Tory Tom Kerr to become the authority’s Lord Provost.
However, the group pulled back at the last minute to explore forming a minority administration.
Lawrence Fitzpatrick, the Labour leader, said he would attempt to form a minority administration.
“We’ve had a strong and secure minority Labour administration in West Lothian for the past five years.
“We will continue to work for a minority Labour administration in order to deliver our progressive manifesto for the people of West Lothian for the next five years.” For voters in Aberdeen, yesterday was a case of trying to work out what exactly had happened the day before.
Labour voters discovered the politicians they elected had been drummed out of the party, but were still running the city, despite being gubbed in the election, coming behind the SNP and the Tories.
Tory voters discovered the party they backed was effectively being led by Labour politicians claiming to deliver a Labour manifesto.
Liberal Democrat voters discovered that one of their new councillors had quit the party, just two weeks after being elected, so she could stand as an independent and prop up a Tory-Labour administration.
And SNP voters discovered that despite winning the largest number of councillors they were now in opposition to a party who had effectively come third.
Yesterday on Radio Scotland, Barney Crockett, Aberdeen’s new Lord Provost, insisted the Labour officials who had kicked him and his eight colleagues out would soon welcome them back into the fold.
“I think that we’ll work through it and I’m confident we will be back in Labour very soon,” he said.
“We are still Labour councillors through and through and I am sure everything is going to be rectified and we will be in good order very soon.”
He added that a Labour-Conservative coalition had run Aberdeen since 2012 and it had “done very well for the city”.
The Provost also said that he was a “great supporter” of Kezia Dugdale, who he said was “very much the right leader for Labour in Scotland”.
“I don’t think we have fallen out,” he insisted.
“It is in civil war and it is in meltdown,” the First Minister added.