The SNP has received a boost to its local authority election campaign after a vote of no confidence in the ruling Labour administration saw the party take over the leadership of Clackmannanshire Council.
The no confidence vote followed concerns over Labour’s management of finances at the local authority and continued criticism of care services for children in Clackmannanshire.
The vote was supported by independent councillor and former member of the Labour administration, Eddie Carrick.
Mr Carrick resigned from the Labour group last month and also left the Labour party after 36 years as a member after being controversially deselected as a party candidate in a vote consisting of just six people, three of whom were the candidates vying for the two available positions.
The SNP will now form the administration of Clackmannanshire Council under the leadership of Cllr Gary Womersley with fellow SNP Cllr Tina Murphy as Provost.
Speaking after votes in the council saw him elected as Council Leader Cllr Womersley said: “This is a good step forward for Clackmannanshire and a new start for Clackmannanshire council.
“As Council leader I and the SNP will be working hard to deliver for the people of Clackmannanshire.
“We have been let down by Labour over the last four years. Over the next few months people in Clackmannanshire will see the kind of positive and constructive administration the SNP can bring.”
Local Labour MP Gordon Banks, said: “This is blatant opportunism by the SNP, which is putting its own electoral interests ahead of the good of Clackmannanshire Council at a time when John Swinney has handed the area deep cuts to the local authority budget.”
Clackmannanshire becomes the 11th council to be led by the SNP and the 13th council in Scotland with the SNP in administration giving the party an early boost in election year. In contrast Labour now has a role in only 9 local authorities.
The news follows analysis that indicates the SNP on course to make significant gains in Scotland’s local authority elections in May.
Statistics released by the party show that there has been a significant increase in support for the SNP with swings from all three opposition parties since 2007.
Over the five year period the analysis of the combined vote in by-elections show swings of 3.3% from Labour, 2.7% from the Conservatives and 2.4% from the Liberal Democrats. The results show that SNP support is up by over 5% since the last Local Authority Elections and up 10% in 2011 alone.
This week also witnessed a blow to Labour after Strathclyde police confirmed they were investigating multi-million pound land deals at Labour controlled Glasgow Council. It followed other reports in the media that suggested new Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont is presiding over a “dysfunctional” local party in her Pollok constituency.
The Sunday Herald claimed that seven of the nine Labour councillors in Ms Lamont’s Pollok seat have been deemed unelectable for this May’s local elections, after being suspended, deselected or rejected – concerns include one candidate facing allegations of wife beating and another who made inappropriate remarks relating to an alleged under-age sex incident.
In the last 12 months the SNP have won nine local authority by-elections. In contrast Labour have won only three with the Lib Dems on one seat. The Tories have secured only one by-election win in the last four years.
The SNP has also moved into the leadership of Dundee and Stirling Councils since 2007 and become the lead partner in the administration of Aberdeen City Council.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart James Dornan said:
“With Scotland going back to the polls in May this year to elect our local councillors, the SNP is going into the year with a strong record and growing support from the people of Scotland.
“Over the last four years increasing numbers of voters have backed the SNP to represent them locally, and the party is now privileged to lead the administrations in Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling.
“This year’s local elections are a real chance to bring the same energy, enthusiasm and commitment to serving local people that the SNP is delivering in government to local authorities all across Scotland.
Citing the SNP’s record on council house building, police recruitment, a council tax freeze and teacher numbers Mr Dornan added:
“The choice in May will be between the SNP, Scotland’s party of delivery, and Labour – a party of negativity.
“We have the appalling situation of Labour’s civil war in the new leader’s own backyard – where seven of the nine sitting Labour councillors in Johann Lamont’s constituency have been suspended, deselected or rejected as suitable candidates.
“It begs the question; if the new Labour leader presides over such a dysfunctional local party, how can she provide leadership at a national level?
“In the run up to May’s local elections the SNP will be campaigning hard to show people in every community that working together at every level we can deliver local government that will make our communities better and help all of us to take Scotland forward.”