HUMZA Yousaf has attacked Labour's “cynical politics” after North Lanarkshire council U-turned on proposed cuts to leisure facilities just days before a by-election.

The First Minister hit out at the Labour-run administration for blaming the SNP for the decision to close 39 leisure facilities.

Following backlash among the community, Labour released a statement backtracking on the decision.

In it, North Lanarkshire Labour leader Jim Logue blamed the Scottish Government for the cuts and for under-funding councils.

READ MORE: Labour council chiefs U-turn on North Lanarkshire leisure centre cuts

Asked for his response to the attack from the Labour council at a by-election campaign event in Blantyre on Tuesday, Yousaf said: “Well, it’s incredible that they somehow managed to blame the SNP despite the fact that they've had an increase in their revenue budget.

“But not only does that fall short, of course, as an excuse, the fact that 24 hours [ago] they were saying that these cuts were absolutely necessary had to be done.

“Only 24 hours later in the midst of a by-election to U-turn shows that its cynical politics at the absolute worst.

“My message is very clear just as the communities of North Lanarkshire and the SNP in North Lanarkshire have managed to force a U-turn out of Labour, we can do the same here in this council area.

“We can force a U-turn in terms of the Council's dreadful proposals to increase the charges in relation to community and leisure facilities here in this council area.

“We can do that by sending a message that those price hikes are unwelcome.

“And we do that by electing Katy Loudon as the next MP come Thursday.”

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We previously told how the Labour-run South Lanarkshire council prompted fury after revealing plans to more than double fees for sports facilities 

Earlier, Logue said: “Our financial situation remains dire after more than a decade of cuts to our budget from the SNP in Holyrood, but Labour will always stand up for families here.

“It remains the case that North Lanarkshire Council will face difficult budget decisions as a result of [the] failure of the SNP to properly resource local government.”

“The only reason South Lanarkshire Council have U-turned is because there is a by-election coming up and because they got their orders from Anas Sarwar to do so," the FM added. 

"Who is to say they won’t U-turn again after the by-election is over and done."

The National:

Affected sports clubs and community groups planned two protests against the Labour administration’s decision and multiple petitions had been set up in response.

It comes as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (above) said he made it “very clear” he disapproved of plans for the cuts to sports prior to the local authority’s U-turn.

Sarwar told journalists on Tuesday he understood the anger and frustration of the affected communities but said councillors were being forced to take “really difficult decisions”.

While campaigning in Cambuslang ahead of a crucial by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Sarwar said he did not blame the decision-making on individual councils.

He told journalists: “Whether it’s Labour councils or SNP, there are councils across this country having to make really difficult decisions – decisions they don’t want to make.

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“So I don’t blame Labour councils for that, I don’t even blame SNP councils. The blame lies squarely with an SNP Scottish Government who is not giving a fair funding deal to local government.

“And I think it’s high time that councils across the country, regardless of political affiliation, stand up and fight for the local communities and demand a fair deal.”

Sarwar added: “I’m really clear that I want to protect, where possible, local services. I can understand the frustration and anger that people have about what they have heard.

“And I’ve made those views really clear.”