LABOUR leader Richard Leonard has been accused of the “height of hypocrisy” by the SNP following the Scottish Labour leader’s weekend declaration that his party would not join with the Tories in another Better Together pact at the next independence referendum.

Today The National exposes Leonard and his party’s duplicity over the issue of cooperation with the Tories. Leonard might say Scottish Labour won’t work with the Tories come the referendum – the branch manager might well be overruled by head office on that one – but in local authorities across Scotland, Labour continue to work hand in glove with Conservatives.

The most egregious example is the City of Aberdeen Council where nine Labour councillors remain suspended from the party more than two years after then leader Kezia Dugdale ordered their suspension for forming a coalition with the Conservatives to take control of the council.

READ MORE: The Tories back Labour’s cuts at Midlothian Council

The Labour Party has confirmed to The National that the suspensions remain in place and the fate of the Aberdeen Nine will be decided by the Party’s National Constitutional Committee, which is independent of the party’s leadership, though no date has yet been set for the case to be decided.

Over the past 26 months the Aberdeen Nine have continued to work with their Conservative colleagues – Labour councillor Jenny Laing remains the co-leader of the administration and they jointly pushed through the 2019-20 council budget.

SNP members across Scottish local government reacted with incredulity when Leonard made his statement on a visit to Motherwell.

Leonard said he had originally opposed Labour joining the Tories in Better Together prior to the 2014 referendum and added: “I thought there should always have been then an autonomous, distinctive, Labour case made for voting ‘No’ in that referendum, but with a view to reform and change.

“Nothing in my mind has changed about that.”

He added that in the event of a future independence referendum campaign, Labour’s “distinctive” approach would be based on reform of the UK while remaining in the UK and there would be no Better Together 2.

In the same interview he said that while he did not favour a second independence referendum, Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister would present “a real and present danger” to the Union.

That brought a stinging response from Scotland’s Minister for Local Government Kevin Stewart who said: “These comments are pretty revealing – they show that the Labour party sees another independence referendum as all but inevitable.

“The reality is they cannot ignore the rising tide of support for Scottish independence and the fact the vast majority of people want that choice over their future.

“But folk won’t believe a word Richard Leonard says about refusing to work with the Tories.

“He’s sat on his hands and allowed a suspended Labour group in Aberdeen to prop up the Tories for the past two years – allowing them to cut local services to the bone. It’s the height of hypocrisy. If he was serious, he’d have booted these councillors out of the party for good.

“As long as Labour continue to put the preservation of a broken Westminster system, which is driving poverty and inequality, ahead of doing what’s best for the people of Scotland they’ll continue on their downward trajectory.”

Aberdeen Council is unusual in that Labour props up the Tories. Today we highlight two councils were the opposite is true – East Lothian and Midlothian, and we will report on more such councils later in the week.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “The SNP has hammered councils with cuts to their budgets of 7.5%. In areas where Labour is in minority administration, we are leading the fight back against SNP austerity – it is for other parties to decide if they will support this

A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “The Labour party is dying out in Scotland. Before too long, there won’t be any Labour politicians left to work with in councils or anywhere else. Perhaps Richard Leonard should reflect on that legacy rather than speculating about the future.”