ONE-QUARTER of Scotland’s population and one-fifth of council employees will shortly have no representation on the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities after Glasgow City Council joined Aberdeen in leaving the organisation yesterday.

Glasgow Council leader Gordon Matheson issued a stark declaration as to why he had piloted Scotland’s largest city out of what was the country’s recognised local authority group into a new organisation to be called the Scottish Local Government Partnership.

“Cosla hasn’t delivered for Glasgow,” said Matheson, “so we’re leaving.”

Aberdeen City Council left on Wednesday, ending many years of Cosla being the only local government association in the UK with 100 per cent membership.

South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire councils have said they will also leave and join the new partnership later this month – their final decision dates are March 11 and 23 respectively.

Crucial to the success of the partnership which, unlike Cosla, will be Labour-dominated, will be whether the group can negotiate with the Scottish Government and whether Cosla’s remaining 28 members will vote to allow the four breakaway councils to be represented on the national Joint Councils which involve trade unions in setting national pay rates and conditions.

Last night Dave Watson, the Scottish organiser of the public sector trade union Unison, said he felt that national bargaining would continue but deplored the breakaway.

Watson said: “We would rather local government spoke with one voice particularly in the current financial circumstances. If there is a split, will the voice be split as well?”

Unison and its predecessor Nalgo have had many disputes with Cosla over the decades since the association was founded in 1975, but Watson does not want to see it disrupted.

He said: “Is this the right time for a split when local authorities face cuts in their government funding while carrying out more duties imposed by government?

“Our main concern is that the national bargaining machinery is preserved.”

Privately, some in government are delighted that the local authorities are no longer united, not least because it apparently vindicates the decision by Finance Secretary John Swinney to deal directly with individual local authorities over the vexed question of teacher numbers.

The Scottish Government’s official position, however, is neutrality. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scottish Ministers have always been clear that membership of Cosla or other bodies is a matter for individual councils.”

Matheson and his Labour administration on Glasgow City Council have recently upped the rhetoric against the Scottish Government after the Commonwealth Games, claiming Glasgow is missing £190 million from its budget due to the SNP Government’s cuts.

Yesterday, Matheson said: “We’ve joined the new Scottish Local Government Partnership, which will enhance the role of local government and help to grow Scotland’s economy and the communities we all serve.

“In the future it will simply not be possible to speak to local government without including us as an equal partner and we have already started meeting with Scotland’s trade unions as we prepare for our role in national collective bargaining.

“It’s inconceivable that the Scottish Government would refuse to deal with the partnership, which represents a quarter of the population and will be responsible for almost half the country’s economic output.

“I am looking forward to working with the Scottish and UK governments, the trade unions, other councils and civic Scotland. Working in partnership we will enhance the role of local government and help to grow Scotland’s economy and the communities we all serve.”

Eight councils in all said last year they would resign from Cosla, but four – West Lothian, Dumfries and Galloway, West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde – later decided to stay.

Last night, Cosla was holding out an olive branch to the three councils which have or will be broken away.

Councillor David O’Neill, Cosla president, said: “Cosla is and has been the collective voice for Scottish local government since 1975 and had done a very good job in representing its membership through some very challenging times.

“We have an excellent track record, a great deal of experience and the support of our member councils. All of which will serve us well in our task of being the local government organisation for Scotland into the future.

“Last year, eight member councils decided to serve notice to quit the organisation citing their reasons for doing so, through meetings and constructive dialogue. Four of those eight councils have now decided to withdraw their notices to quit – which is excellent news – and we will continue to work as hard as ever to meet the needs of our member councils.

“Finally, we pride ourselves on being a listening organisation and we heard what the four councils who have returned told us and we have satisfied their requirements. The door always remains open for the other four.”