Richard Leonard warned of ‘disaster’ if Labour councillors expelled for Tory coalition

A decision by UK Labour to expel the nine suspended Scottish Labour councillors in Aberdeen would be a “disaster” for the party’s Scottish leader, it has been claimed.

Richard Leonard has said he wants to “avoid expelling people” and appointed his local government spokesman Alex Rowley to try and find a solution.

Now Scotland on Sunday understands Rowley is trying to take back control of the situation from UK Labour’s national disciplinary body amid growing concern the process is failing the Scottish party.

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The Aberdeen councillors have been suspended for two years while waiting for their case to be heard. However, party sources say if a decision was made to expel them, it would be “disastrous” for Leonard’s authority.

A Labour source said: “It is absolutely ridiculous that these councillors are still suspended and nothing has been resolved. It has made a laughing stock of the party’s disciplinary process, as have many other cases which have taken far too long to be dealt with.

“The situation is farcical. However, the problem in this case is that if a decision is handed down to expel them, then that is bad for the party in Scotland and would undermine the reconciliation stance Richard has taken. We need to take this into our own hands and find a solution.”

The group of nine councillors were suspended after the local government elections in 2017 when they agreed to form an administration with the Conservative Party Group against the orders of the then-party leader Kezia Dugdale.

Since then the group, which includes council co-leader Jenny Laing and Lord Provost Barney Crockett, have gone under the name “Aberdeen Labour” while party bosses look at their case.

Last July, Labour’s National Executive Committee’s disputes panel (NEC) met and referred the case on to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), which will have the final say. Laing has consistently defended the councillors’ actions, saying: “Anybody who has read our manifesto and administration policy document will be well aware that we are delivering exactly what was asked for by Scottish Labour.”

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “This suspension is a complete farce. The same councillors who have chosen to prop up the Tories in the Town House are still chapping doors for Labour alongside MSPs and attending party policy meetings.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “This case is awaiting a hearing at the NCC, Labour’s disciplinary body.”