Scottish Labour’s leader has told Aberdeen councillors suspended from her party that their job is to “defend public services” and not “about positions or gold medals around the necks”.
Kezia Dugdale’s comments came after her local party members struck a deal with the Conservative group and independents to run Aberdeen City Council and, despite being the council’s third largest party, secured both the leader’s position for councillor Jenny Laing and the Lord Provost role for Barney Crockett. The Aberdeen group had been instructed to reject the coalition deal.
Ms Dugdale reiterated that Labour members “cannot do any deal with another party if it would result in further austerity being imposed on local communities”.
She said: “This isn’t about positions or gold medals around the necks of councillors, this is about the job Labour councillors are elected to do – to protect public services, to invest in and defend public services.
“The deal coming from Aberdeen didn’t pass that test, that’s why it was rejected by the democratic body of the Labour Party, why it must be respected and why we have moved to suspend these councillors.”
All nine members of the Labour group in Aberdeen have been suspended for breaching party rules.
The move means there are currently no councillors in office in Aberdeen representing the Labour party.
Ms Dugdale said Labour values must always run through any deals in local government.
Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took to social media site Twitter last night describing the situation as “a total shambles”.
She added: “Suspension doesn’t change the fact that these councillors have used Labour votes to give Aberdeen a Tory council.”
Ms Sturgeon also questioned the leadership of the council, tweeting: “So, does this mean that a Labour councillor is going to be the leader of an administration in which the Tories will have most councillors?”
SNP parliamentary candidate and former leader of Aberdeen City Council Callum McCaig branded Aberdeen Labour’s behaviour “shameful” for agreeing to support the Conservative party.
He said: “This is absolutely shameful behaviour from Labour.
“They can no longer call themselves a party that support public services, given this anti-democratic pact with a right-wing Tory party obsessed with austerity and cuts.
“People across Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland now know where Labour’s priorities lie – they put jumping into bed with the Tories ahead of any principle.”
Mr McCaig said the SNP won the local election “decisively” yet faced being locked out of office by a Labour party “committed to cutting public services” rather than engaging with the SNP’s progressive programme.
Scottish Conservative leader at Holyrood Ruth Davidson said Ms Dugdale had shown her “true colours”.
She added: “As soon as the SNP finally comes under pressure, she can’t wait to help them out by propping them up in local government.
She says she’ll ‘discipline’ members who even think about working with pro-UK colleagues like the Conservatives, despite Labour and Conservatives having formed the Aberdeen City administration for almost all of her time as leader.
“She really is lost.
“No wonder Scottish Labour is continuing its death spiral.”
Douglas Lumsden, Scottish Conservative group leader, said the city needs councillors to work together.
A spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said: “The chaos we are seeing with the Labour Party in Aberdeen is systematic of the chaos we have seen with the party under Jeremy Corbyn.
“Most importantly this illustrates how the Labour Party won’t even be able to operate as an effective and united opposition let alone a party of government.”