Blow for Glasgow Labour as local councillor defects to SNP

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Labour party in Glasgow has been dealt a blow after one of their councillors defected to the SNP.

Glasgow Labour councillor, Irfan Rabbani, has announced that he has joined the SNP Group on Glasgow City Council after reaching the conclusion that Scotland would be better off independent.

In a statement following the dramatic announcement, Councillor Rabbani said he would join the nationalists but would not be standing in the forthcoming council elections, although he would campaign on behalf of other SNP candidates.

He said:

“I am delighted to be joining the SNP.  In many ways, this decision was as easy for me to make as it was momentous.

“For some time now I have been coming to the conclusion that Scotland will be better off as an independent country – deciding for ourselves what is best for our country, our families and our communities.

“I want to live in a Scotland that has social justice at its heart, that doesn’t have to put up with weapons of mass destruction on the River Clyde and that never again has to see our young men and women dragged into an illegal war.

“For all these reasons, and more, I will be voting ‘yes’ in the referendum in Autumn 2014 and I want to play my full part in the yes campaign over the next two and a half years.”

Mr Rabbani cited Labour’s constant negativity about Scotland and the party’s closeness to the Conservatives as just some of the reasons for his decision.

“I have become increasingly frustrated by Labour’s negative stance in the debate about Scotland’s future.” he said.

“It therefore makes perfect sense for me to campaign for independence from within the SNP –  a party that I know to be progressive, forward looking and positive about Scotland’s future.

“I also want to see change in Glasgow City Chambers.  The simple fact is that Labour has been in power for too long in Glasgow and have become complacent.

“There is too little transparency in the way Labour is run and that can also be true of the administration in Glasgow.  It can also seem that they think picking fights with the SNP government is more important than standing up for the city.

“I will not be standing as a candidate in May’s local elections – but I will be campaigning for the election of SNP councillors across the city.”

SNP Group leader, Cllr Allison Hunter said:

“I am delighted to welcome Irfan to the SNP Group.  He has been an effective councillor over the past five years and I look forward to the contribution he will make to the SNP Group for the remainder of this session.”

MSP for Glasgow Southside and SNP Depute Leader, Nicola Sturgeon added:

“Irfan is a councillor in my constituency and so I know how highly thought of he is locally, I am delighted that he has joined the SNP.

“I have been aware for a while that he has been growing more convinced of the independence case. I look forward to campaigning with him in both the local elections and for a yes vote in the referendum.”

The announcement by  the 49-year-old father and grandfather was embarrassing for Labour in Scotland, coming on the same day as a high profile visit to Glasgow by leader Ed Milband.

Councillor Rabbani has been a member of the Labour Party for over 20 years and councillor for Pollokshields since 2007.

Until earlier this month, he was also a member of Labour’s Scottish Executive.  Currently he is a member of Strathclyde Police Authority, the Regeneration & the Economy Policy Development Committee and External Governance Scrutiny Committee.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson claimed that Mr Rabbani was recently de-selected by the Labour party because he was “not good enough” as a councillor.

The spokesperson accused the SNP of being “desperate” and of trying to “parachute him in” and added: “Only a few months ago the SNP were vigorously attacking him for his excessive mobile phone bills.  If the SNP are reduced to fielding people rejected as not being good enough for Labour, that is fine but shows how desperate they are.”