Anas Sarwar wants to see Scottish Labour councillors run minority administrations as opposed to coalitions – but he stressed the need for elected members to work with other parties.
The Scottish Labour leader was speaking during a visit to Peak Scientific in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, where he was asked about his party’s plans for next year’s local elections.
After the previous vote in 2017, nine Aberdeen councillors were suspended by the party for forming a coalition with the Conservatives and independent councillors, preventing the SNP from ruling as a minority administration.
More than three years later, the councillors are still out in the cold.
While Mr Sarwar said a decision is yet to be made on the “parameters” of the local elections – such as sanctions for those who enter coalition with opposition parties, when pressed, he added: “My own view is that we should have Labour councils and Labour councillors across the country and we should be delivering Labour policies across the country.
“I’m more interested in Labour councils running as minority administrations, working in partnership on the issues that they agree on, but being free to disagree on the issues they disagree on so we can deliver effective local government for councils across the country.”
Mr Sarwar also said the switch in voting systems from first-past-the-post to the more proportional single transferable vote in 2007 means it is “almost impossible” for majorities in local authorities.
“That is going to require councillors to work together in the local interest to be able to deliver for local people,” he said.
“That is something that we will think about over the next few months as we gear up into that election campaign – but should people be working together for their local communities? Absolutely they should.”
When asked specifically about the case of the Aberdeen councillors, Mr Sarwar said: “I’ve already said that I regard them as Labour councillors – I’ve said that already in the past.
“They are delivering a Labour manifesto in Aberdeen, they have been voted UK council of the year, they are doing an effective job in Aberdeen.
“But as you know, the dispute around the Aberdeen nine long predates my time.
“They’ve been through an NCC (Labour’s National Constitution Committee) process, which is an independent process free from political interference.
“But there has been a material change, in Aberdeen, so we have to wait and see what happens in terms of any future appeal.
“But I see them as Labour Party members, I see them as Labour Party councillors, I think they’re doing an effective job.
“I want Labour members to be able to choose who their candidates are so we can elect effective Labour councillors in the next election.”