IT was once a Labour stronghold – but five years ago the party only just managed to hold onto power in North Lanarkshire with the help of the Tories.

While the SNP won the largest number of seats in the 2017 council election, it was outvoted on all the crucial office bearer positions.

Now the leader of the SNP group, Bellshill councillor Jordan Linden, has vowed to prevent that happening again with the aim of the party winning control of the council for the first time in its history.

If his party secures the largest number of seats next month, he says he will work with other “like-minded” candidates, independents and even Labour to secure an SNP-led administration for the first time in the council’s history.

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He told The National: “At the election we can say to people is what we can guarantee is that we will not do a deal with the Tories.

“Labour should be the ones who are jumping at the chance to say the same.”

Voters will go to the polls to elect 77 councillors in North Lanarkshire – with the current composition being 31 Labour members, 26 SNP, nine independents, eight Conservatives and three from Alba.

In 2017, the SNP gained 33 seats – one ahead of Labour’s 32, but neither reached the 39 required for a majority.

The SNP was outvoted for the positions of provost, council leader and both deputes, which it described it as a “Labour and Tory stitch-up”, while Labour insisted it had not asked the Tories for support.

The National: CUMBERNAULD, SCOTLAND - MARCH 06: a general view of the Palacerigg area in the foreground near Cumbernauld with Cumbernauld town centre in the background on March 06, 2016 in Cumbernauld, Scotland. (Photo by Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times) - JS.

This time, the SNP is standing 43 candidates, more than any other party and has launched its “most ambitious” manifesto for North Lanarkshire.

Linden says: “I am not going to wait or hesitate – if we win the most seats, then after the count I will seek to form an administration led by the SNP and be the first SNP administration in North Lanarkshire.

“I will exhaust every avenue and energy in doing it. I will not be sitting back and allowing the previous administration – who will have lost, I hope – to try and scramble about and form it.

“Whether it is a minority administration, whether there is power-sharing, whether there is confidence and supply, whether there is a co-operation agreement.

“Whatever you want to call it, the priority for me is about getting the SNP into administration in North Lanarkshire and starting to reverse and repair the damage which has been caused by the administration – particularly the administration of the past five years propped up by the Tories.”

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North Lanarkshire Council has attracted its fair share of publicity in recent months.

This has included unveiling plans to demolish Cumbernauld’s brutalist town centre and banning footballer David Goodwillie – who was ruled a rapist in a 2017 civil court case – from playing at Clyde’s home ground, which the council owns.

The news that Henry Dunbar, previously a leader of the Orange Order, is among the 42 Labour candidates standing also hit the headlines.

If returned next month, Labour council leader Jim Logue will become the only member from the 1995 creation of the council to remain in office. He did not respond to a request for interview.

One of the big unknowns of this election is how much wider issues such as cost-of-living crisis and the Downing Street partygate scandal will influence voters.

Julie McAnulty, who is standing in the Coatbridge North ward for the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP), said: “Food bank referrals are going through the roof. We are seeing quite a lot of new poor – folk who have worked all their lives and suddenly find themselves without a job. It is very grim.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything as bad as this since the 80s.”

McAnulty, who was previously an SNP councillor but quit the party after being falsely accused of racism, said local elections are “notoriously difficult to predict”.

But, she added: “I think the Conservatives are probably going to take a pasting in this election as this is the first opportunity I think people really have had to punish them at the polls for what is going on with fuel and so on.”

Pub owner and martial arts expert Robert Slavin is one of the first-time candidates, standing for Alba.

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He said he has always wanted Scottish independence and had now decided to get involved “in the trenches”.

“When you get to local elections, it is more about getting the bins emptied on time, making sure all the services are in place,” he added.

Slavin, who is standing for Coatbridge West, believes he has an advantage in being a “well-kent face” in his community.

“I’m not your typical politician – I’m not going to be one of those guys that promises you the moon and then not deliver,” he added.

The reaction to the election from voters on the doorsteps is not yet one of huge interest, added candidate Claire Williams, the Scottish Greens candidate for Stepps, Chryston and Muirhead.

She said a typical response is “oh, when is it?” when out canvassing for support and is working to build on the “great response” she had when she announced she was standing.

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“We had amazing results at the Holyrood election last year so it’s really about getting more Green councillors into councils where they can make a difference,” she added.

While the success in May last year means the Greens are now formally working with the Scottish Government, Williams is reticent when it comes to the issue of whether her party will lend support to the SNP in North Lanarkshire if required.

“I don’t think there has been any formal discussions on co-operation,” she says.

If the SNP do succeed in securing control of North Lanarkshire, Linden – who is 26 – will become one of the youngest council leaders in the country. Whether the party can this time successfully fend off Labour remains to be seen.

Scotland’s ballots will be cast in the local elections on May 5. Between now and polling day, The National will profile EVERY ONE of the country’s 32 local authorities. Click HERE to see all of those published so far.