SNP challenges Richard Leonard to expel Labour councillors

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has been challenged to “prove his authority” and expel nine Aberdeen councillors from the party three years after they were suspended.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 7:30 am
Richard Leonard
Richard Leonard

Mr Leonard, who saw off a motion of no confidence in his leadership at the weekend, is being urged to underline his authority by ending the saga that saw the Labour councillors enter into a coalition with the Conservative and Independent Alliance groups after the last local government elections without their party’s permission.

The move ensured the Aberdeen SNP group was unable to take control of the city council, and now the Nationalists say Mr Leonard should act to expel the nine councillors to “prove who’s boss of the Scottish Labour Party”.

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Mr Leonard has said the lack of resolution on the suspension of the councillors is of “great frustration” to him and that the group still awaits a hearing with the UK party’s national constitutional committee to decide their fate.

However, yesterday SNP MSP for Aberdeen Maureen Watt said Mr Leonard should use his new mandate as leader to expel the councillors. “This is an ongoing embarrassment for the Labour Party – Richard Leonard has let this farce drag on for far too long,” she said.

“He’s treating the people of Aberdeen like mugs. Labour’s pledge to stand up for working families clearly doesn’t apply in the north-east, where these nine councillors have stood under a red banner and waved through a series of devastating cuts hand in hand with the Tories.

“His leadership is already hanging by a thread – it’s time he grew a backbone and showed who’s boss of the Scottish Labour party. No more excuses and no more kicking this issue into the long grass – will Richard Leonard back or sack these Tory-supporting councillors?”

A spokesman for Mr Leonard said he would not comment on Ms Watt’s demand as the process was “ongoing” but last month Mr Leonard said he could do no more than encourage the UK party to hold a hearing into the councillors’ actions “justly but also timeously”.

He added: “When I’m interviewed by members of the press and I’m asked about outstanding cases, this is a great frustration to me, that these remain as outstanding cases and there hasn’t been a resolution. I will, and my deputy Jackie Baillie since her election, has been trying to emphasise the importance of getting a resolution on the position of the suspended nine councillors in Aberdeen.”

The Labour councillors have also been urged to ditch their coalition with the Conservatives by Aberdeen University Labour Students, after Tory councillor Ryan Houghton was readmitted to his party following a suspension for using discriminatory language.

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