A COUNCILLOR who quit the SNP after falling out with the leader of Scotland’s largest local authority has said he will continue to fight for independence.

Russell Robertson praised the work of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (below) and the party’s Westminster chief Ian Blackford and suggested he was confident he would still be a party member if he had not represented it as a member of Glasgow City Council. In his first interview since quitting the SNP just over two weeks ago, the 60-year-old former health and social care manager renewed criticism of council leader Susan Aitken.

“I am a passionate supporter of independence and always will be,” Robertson said. “Ian Blackford is doing a fantastic job, as is Nicola Sturgeon. I followed the launch of the party’s European election campaign launch yesterday. And I will be taking the First Minister’s [pro-EU] messages to the doors and Yes marches and events.”

Robertson added: “One of the reasons I left the SNP group was because I became disillusioned with the attention people were giving to their personal political and career ambitions rather than fighting to improve the lives of the people they were elected to represent.”

Robertson revealed he was in the initial stages of forming a new independent group within the local authority, with a meeting arranged with council chief executive Annemarie O’Donnell next week.

He is expected to be joined in the new group by Councillor Glenn Elder, who also gave up the SNP whip last month after falling out with Aitken. Robertson said he is speaking to several other councillors from across political parties in the hope more might join the duo.

“I am hoping to set up the new group,” he said. “I have spoken to Councillor Elder and am also speaking to several other councillors across parties who may join us. I am meeting with the chief executive next week to get office space and administrative support. We hope to be a new group which will be independently minded. Two could become four and four six.”.

Robertson said that while his personal view was to support independence the new group would not take a position on the constitutional future of Scotland.

He said: “I would like to break away from the independence/Unionist position. The first priority of the group will be looking at how to do things in Glasgow. I am talking to other councillors from other parties and reminding them why they became a councillor – what they want rather than what their group or party wants. Anyone is welcome to come and talk to us and explore what we are about.”

The National:

Robertson quit the SNP group last month after falling out with Aitken over her leadership. In his resignation letter he stated he was resigning with “a heavy heart” but felt he could best serve as an independent.

He stated: “I can no longer serve under you as I feel you no longer have the leadership skill, qualities and above all the consensus building skills required to lead this great city.”

Robertson defected to the SNP from Labour in 2016, after deciding to back independence, and was elected as SNP councillor for East Centre ward the following year.

His tensions with the administration began after he faced criminal charges last year.

He declined to discuss the details of the case with The National yesterday but previous press reports said he had been accused of making offensive and sectarian remarks.

Robertson denied the charges when he appeared for trial at Glasgow sheriff court in October last year and the charges were dropped. His co-accused, David Hara, admitted shouting remarks aggravated by religious prejudice.

After he quit the SNP, party sources suggested Robertson’s departure was a result of him being removed as chair of the community planning committee, causing him to lose the extra £7000 her was paid on top of his £17,000 councillor’s salary. Robertson yesterday denied the loss of the extra payment was behind his decision to leave the party. “My decision to go was in no way connected to money,” he said. “The final straw for me was when I was instructed to nod through a paper [on health and social care] without proper scrutiny.”

Last night, an SNP source hit back at Robertson’s claims. “The party, the SNP group and council leader stood by Russell when he was charged and throughout his recent legal issues.

“So it is deeply disappointing that he was unable to reciprocate the loyalty shown to him.

“When the SNP were elected in 2017 there was a hope and expectation that those elected on the party platform would behave differently, that there would no longer be the sense of entitlement which permeated previous administrations. The people who voted for them also expected that change.

Sources said Robertson praised Aitken’s leadership two months before he left the SNP group.