Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has suspended every Labour councillor in Aberdeen after they ignored orders to abandon a coalition deal with the Conservatives. The nine councillors, including the newly elected provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett, intended to sign a deal with the Conservatives in a bid to prevent the Scottish National Party from taking power. Dugdale has now disciplined the nine councillors after refusing to obey the executive order to stand down before the 17:00 deadline on 17th May, and as a result there are currently no Labour councillors representing Aberdeen.
“Labour values must always run through any deals in local government,” Dugdale said. “Labour cannot do any deal with another party if it would result in further austerity being imposed on local communities. Tory austerity risks hurting so many families in Aberdeen, and the Labour party simply will not stand for that.” Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, met this unprecedented move with strong criticism, describing it as “a terrible error of judgement”, adding that Kezia Dugdale “is putting her own petty politics ahead of what’s good for Aberdeen”.
The First Minister and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon also tweeted that the suspension decision was “a total shambles”, and that it does not change that “these councillors have used Labour votes to give Aberdeen a Tory council.” SNP became the biggest party with 19 councillors elected up from 16 in 2012, but not enough to form a majority, as Conservatives surged to 11 from three and Labour’s total halved to nine. The coalition deal would have seen Labour merge with 11 Tory councillors and three independents, essentially locking SNP out of power. However, news outlets are now suggesting that the possibility of such deals between Labour and Conservative are not unprecedented, the two parties having formed a coalition with independent councillors in 2012.
While Ruth Davidson comments that “no wonder Scottish Labour is continuing its death spiral”, Callum McCaig, SNP candidate for Aberdeen South, says that “they can no longer call themselves a party that supports public services , given this anti-democratic pact with a right-wing Tory party obsessed with austerity and cuts.” Scottish Labour undoubtedly have shown division in their own ranks and it has cost them Aberdeen – how badly this will affect them in the General election in June is yet to be seen.