LABOUR council chiefs have U-turned on a plan to close dozens of sports and leisure centres in North Lanarkshire following a huge outcry.

North Lanarkshire Labour leader Councillor Jim Logue said the “important facilities” would be protected for the duration of the council term as he announced the previous decision would be rescinded.

He said: “We have taken the decision to protect these important community assets, despite a total lack of support from the Scottish Government to do so."

READ MORE: Scottish council bans public comments amid 'abuse' over closures

North Lanarkshire Council found itself the subject of intense anger as plans were approved to close 39 libraries, leisure centres, pools and other sports and culture facilities - with sports clubs planning a demonstration against the move and thousands signing a petition.

The local authority banned comments on its social media posts claiming councillors had been subject to abuse over the decision. 

Labour had blamed the Scottish Government for the cuts and for under-funding councils.

But Ayeshah Khan, the Labour councillor for Motherwell North, condemned her own party’s decision.

In a statement posted on Facebook she said her opposition to the plans went “unheard” and vowed to keep fighting for the facilities to remain open.

SNP group leader councillor Tracy Carragher, had previously described the move as "unthinkable". 

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire: Thousands sign petition to save sports facilities

She added: “We worked hard to come up with a feasible solution – one which I believe wasn’t even given full consideration by the administration who bulldozed ahead with these cuts which will impact our communities profoundly."

In the statement announcing the decision was being rescinded, Logue added: “However, our financial situation remains dire after more than a decade of cuts to our budget from the SNP in Holyrood, but Labour will always stand up for families here.

“It remains the case that North Lanarkshire Council will face difficult budget decisions as a result of failure of the SNP to properly resource local government.”

Affected sports clubs and community groups had been planning two protests and multiple petitions had been set up in response.

SNP MSP Clare Haughey said: “Labour have crumbled under the weight of the SNP’s opposition to these disastrous proposals - demonstrating that the best way to keep the pressure on pro-austerity Labour is to vote SNP.

“These plans stoked much fear and alarm into communities who would have been locked out of needed sports facilities, mirroring the proposals they’ve deferred but so far refused to scrap in South Lanarkshire to hike the prices of youth clubs and community facilities by 114%.

“With just two days to go until polling day in an important by-election, Labour are in chaos and clearly not in a position to properly represent communities anywhere in Scotland."