Local council elections Scotland 2022: Anas Sarwar says Labour will not play the game of 'political party stitch-up' coalitions

Anas Sarwar has declared he is not “playing the game” of “political party stitch-ups” through local council coalitions as he described his stance as “perfectly reasonable”.

The Scottish Labour leader said he wanted to “maximise” Labour representation in Scotland as as he doubled down on the coalition ban.

He reiterated the stance as polling expert Sir John Curtice wrote in an exclusive column for The Scotsman that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP had a “good chance” of registering a boost in support and gaining “political momentum” at Thursday’s local government elections.

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Sir John also predicted Boris Johnson was on a “favourable wicket” and the Conservatives should avoid a “tsunami” of votes against them south of the Border, although he suggested the challenge was much greater in Scotland in the wake of the ‘Partygate’ scandal.

The Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar during a campaign event in Glasgow.

Mr Sarwar and UK Labour leader Keir Starmer have ruled out any coalitions with other parties at both a local and national level.

Nicola Sturgeon previously described the no coalition decision from Labour as “inexplicable”, saying: “It seems to reveal an oppositionalist mindset, that he wants to lock himself out of actually exercising power or influence at local level.”

However, speaking to The Scotsman in Govan yesterday during the launch of a “Love Glasgow, Vote Labour” digital billboard van, Mr Sarwar branded the move “perfectly reasonable”, claiming both the SNP and the Conservatives were “decimating local communities”.

Asked whether the coalition decision would limit Labour’s influence in decision-making at a local level, Mr Sarwar said: “For the last ten years, the SNP and the Tories have told us that the Labour party is finished and all the SNP and Tories want to talk about is coalitions with Labour.

Anas Sarwar says no "party stitch-up" coalitions will "maximise" Labour representation in council elections

"We’ve shown already in East Lothian, West Lothian and North Ayrshire that we can run Labour with minority administrations. The SNP are running a minority administration in Glasgow and they’ve got a minority administration in the Scottish Parliament.

“Let’s not play the game of one deal with one party. This is a chance for us to elect as many Labour councils and councillors as possible.

"Let’s have local authorities run not based on party political stitch-ups, but individual politicians and individual political parties working together on individual issues that meet the needs of local people."

A recent Sunday Times poll suggested Labour would take 24 per cent of the vote, three points ahead of the Conservatives, but behind the SNP’s return of 42 per cent.

Labour currently holds political power in 13 local authorities, with seven of these involving a coalition or a joint agreement with other political parties.

In East Lothian, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire and West Lothian, Labour holds a minority.

Labour holds power alongside the SNP in Edinburgh, Fife and Stirling.

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Addressing whether existing joint administrations between the SNP and Labour, such as in Fife, would be impacted, Mr Sarwar said: “I’m hoping we can have a Labour administration in Fife as well as other parts of the country and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable position.

"I think both the SNP and the Tories are bad for Scotland and I think both of them are decimating our local communities, so that’s why I want us to maximise Labour representation across the country and then have decisions made about local priorities, not by party political stitch-ups.”

Mr Sarwar said the SNP had “neglected” Glasgow over the past five years over issues such as roads and city centre regeneration.

He said: “We are saying ‘let’s put the heart back into Glasgow and let’s put the priorities right in terms of getting the basics right and having local champions here in Glasgow that are not puppets for the SNP, not puppets for Nicola Sturgeon’.”

Mr Sarwar has previously branded Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken as "a puppet of Nicola Sturgeon", as his party aims to re-take control of Scotland's largest local authority after losing power in 2017 to a minority Nationalist administration.

Ms Aitken has come in for heated criticism in the election build-up, with strikes by refuse collectors and council budget cuts hurting her administration.

Asked yesterday about Ms Aitken’s leadership of the SNP administration in Glasgow, Mr Sarwar said she had seen her job as “standing up for the SNP and not for Glasgow”.

It comes as Sir John claimed Labour had more at stake at a national level than the Conservatives.

He wrote: "If the polls are correct, there could be no more than a three-point swing from Conservative to Labour on Thursday – enough to produce some Conservative losses (to the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour) – but not a tsunami.

Sir John added: "Mr Johnson wants to demonstrate that the ‘Partygate’ row has not inflicted serious damage on his part. Ms Sturgeon will be hoping the result will give her some political momentum as she pursues her quest to hold a second independence referendum.

“As it happens, both might be in luck.”

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