SCOTTISH Labour looks set to take control of Stirling Council after striking a deal with the Conservatives – despite being the third largest party.

The Labour group returned six Stirling councillors in May’s local elections, two fewer than the SNP’s eight and also behind the Tories, who returned seven. One independent and one Green were also elected. Twelve councillors represent a majority of votes on the 23-seat council.

Stirling had been run by an SNP-Labour coalition before the elections, with the SNP’s Scott Farmer acting as council leader.

However, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has ruled out formal coalitions, meaning such an arrangement could not continue.

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The SNP group would need the support of either the Tory or Labour group in order to form a minority administration. However, the SNP and Tories both have policies of not working with the other.

Instead of offering the larger SNP group its support, Labour have bartered with both them and the Tories in an attempt to manoeuvre themselves into power.

Labour have offered the Tories the Provost position in order to take control of the council – despite only having around one-quarter of the seats. The SNP reportedly rejected the same deal.

In a blog post, Labour group and prospective council leader Chris Kane wrote: “After extensive talks we believe we have the support of a majority of Stirling Councillors to achieve it [a Labour minority administration].

“We spoke with the SNP group about nominating a Provost and they declined. We spoke with the Conservative group and they agreed.

“We will seek to negotiate on an issue by issue basis … There are, crucially, red lines for the Labour group and the wider Labour movement which we could never support.

“For example, there will be no compulsory redundancies at Stirling Council and there will be no outsourcing of council services under a Labour minority administration.”

Responding to the announcement, the SNP group under Farmer said Stirling voters would be “shocked” at the news of the "grubby" deal.

They accused “flailing Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar” (below) of having “greenlit local Stirling Labour figures to revive the Better Together alliance”.

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They said the SNP had declined positions on the council as it had “refused to be window dressing for a Labour-Tory bourach”.

Farmer added: “Stirling Labour are planning to shun a progressive partnership with the SNP and instead pursue a weak and unstable minority administration with backing from the Tories. The people of Stirling expect stability and delivery in these desperate times – and they’ll see the exact opposite from this poorly thought-out plan.

“Labour supporters and activists will be left questioning why their votes are being used as collateral in a grubby deal with the Tories, and may result in a Tory Provost.

“It’s not too late for Stirling Labour to pull back and reassess. The SNP are the largest local party and won the most seats and overall votes. We wish to deliver for Stirling’s communities, and protect businesses and vulnerable households from the spiralling cost of living crisis.

“Stirling SNP and Labour have locked out the Tories before – and we stand ready to do so again.”

The move follows similar action from Labour in North Lanarkshire. Despite being the second party on that council, Labour have struck a backroom deal with the Tories to allow them to form a minority administration and keep the SNP out of power.

Scottish Labour has been approached for comment, but has so far failed to respond to any request mentioning Sarwar's previous "no coalitions" position.