Aberdeen’s suspended Labour councillors have officially backed Anas Sarwar to become the party’s next leader in Scotland.
Mr Sarwar is running against fellow Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon in a bid to succeed Richard Leonard, who resigned earlier this month.
The Glasgow regional MSP has previously spoken out in support of the nine councillors, who were suspended from the party in 2017 after entering a coalition with the Conservative and Independent Alliance groups.
Last year, the “Aberdeen Nine” had their ban extended until 2022 – but Mr Sarwar praised his “colleagues” last week for their work as part of the ruling administration.
Group leader Jenny Laing said: “The nine Labour councillors on Aberdeen City Council have unanimously agreed to endorse and support Anas Sarwar in his bid to become the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
“With only months to go until the next Scottish Parliamentary election Scottish Labour needs a strong leader who will hit the ground running and has the ability and experience to re-build confidence with the Scottish electorate and expose the SNP failings over the last 13 years.
“We believe Anas Sarwar is that person.”
Ms Laing added: “Aberdeen City Council won Local Authority of the Year in 2020 because, as a Labour-led council, we have delivered a strong policy agenda which has invested in both our people and the place.
“Scotland is crying out for a similar approach at a national level and, as the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar will bring forward Labour policies which are both progressive and inclusive and he will ensure the SNP are held to account for their abysmal record, on poverty, education, health, drug deaths and the economy.
“The focus must now be on how we rebuild our economy, our communities, our public services, and NHS, whilst tackling poverty and the climate crisis.
“Anas is clear that Scottish Labour must never shy away from our core values and realises that the only way to beat the SNP and the Tories is by bring forward a social justice programme that has the Scottish people at its heart and a focus on improving their lives.”
A new leader will be chosen by the end of February in time for this year’s Scottish Parliament election.
Mr Sarwar said he was “looking forward to working with” the councillors.
He said: “I don’t consider my colleagues to be ex-Labour councillors; to me they are nine Labour councillors who are working day and night for the people of Aberdeen.
“Their determination to improve their local communities saw them named Local Authority of the Year.
“I look forward to working closely with them in the months and years ahead.”