One of the contenders for the leadership of Scottish Labour is aiming to work in partnership with a group of Aberdeen councillors suspended from the party.
Anas Sarwar is aiming to become leader after Richard Leonard resigned earlier this month – and has now spoken out in support of the so-called “Aberdeen Nine”.
The group were suspended by the Labour party in 2017 after forming a coalition with the Conservative and Independent Alliance groups to create the current Aberdeen City Council administration.
However, Mr Sarwar praised the councillors’ efforts and said he continues to view them as “colleagues” despite their ban.
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.”
Mr Sarwar will go head to head with fellow Labour MSP Monica Lennon in the party leadership contest after both received the required number of nominations from MSPs.
A new leader will be chosen by the end of February in time for this year’s Scottish Parliament election.
Jenny Laing the Aberdeen Labour group leader, said: “I appreciate Anas Sarwar’s comments as he clearly recognises that the Labour group have worked hard to invest in our communities despite the austerity being rained down on local government.
“We remain committed to driving forward with our policy agenda which is based on our 2017 Labour manifesto as it has the people and the place of Aberdeen at its heart.”
Throwing his support behind Mr Sarwar’s leadership bid, deputy group leader Tauqeer Malik added: “In 2017 the Labour group in Aberdeen took a decision to remain in Administration in order to improve our local communities from SNP austerity.
“I’m therefore grateful to Anas Sarwar for his endorsement of the 9 Labour Councillors who have put Aberdeen first. I will be supporting him in this contest as Scotland needs more Anas Sarwars in order to hold the SNP to account.”
The Evening Express asked Ms Lennon for comment but did not receive a response..