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SNP tactics to take Glasgow: blame Labour for shady deals and baby deaths

Published on 11 March 2012

THE SNP has been accused of using "obscene" negative tactics in its battle to win Glasgow in May's local elections, after deploying statistics about dead babies to attack Labour.

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But another SNP delegate suggested Labour was doing "shady deals" with "people of ill-repute" in the city.

Allison Hunter, leader of the SNP group on Glasgow City Council, cited the city's infant mortality rates in her speech to the SNP's spring conference during a debate about the forthcoming council elections.

She said the city's "horrendous statistics" on life expectancy and infant mortality were a "badge of shame for the Labour Party that has presided over this city for the past five decades".

She admitted the SNP had no "magic wand" to fix the city's ingrained social problems, but said her party would not neglect them if it replaced Labour at the City Chambers.

"There is absolutely no chance of an SNP administration becoming complacent and comfortable while these problems continue to exist," she said.

Hunter's comments prompted a furious reaction from Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader of Glasgow, who accused the SNP of "going negative" and misrepresenting the truth.

He said infant mortality rates in the city had fallen from 19 per thousand births in the 1970s to fewer than four per thousand today. The Scottish average is 3.7.

Matheson said: "It is gutter politics, and their slurs will backfire on them. The death of any baby is a terrible personal tragedy, but using this as a political attack – especially when totally false – is obscene. Is there nothing they will not stoop to?"

He went on: "Nicola Sturgeon, who is the health secretary - should distance herself from this distasteful attack, and I hope she has the guts to speak against this deeply negative motion."

With the SNP making victory in Glasgow a priority, Hunter's predecessor as SNP leader on the council also made an outpsoken attack.

James Dornan, now MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, said the city under Labour was "like Chicago", with "shady deals being done with businessmen and people of ill-repute".

He said the last city boss, Steven Purcell, had been tipped as a future Scottish Labour leader until he quit with a drink problem in 2010.

His departure led to a series of questions about cronyism.

"Steven Purcell was their rock and when that rock was moved lots of creepy crawly things came from underneath it," Dornan said.

Earlier, SNP deputy leader Sturgeon, below, said the Nationalists were ready to wrest control of Glasgow from a "crumbling" Labour Party.

She said the SNP had enjoyed a historic victory in Glasgow last year, when voters in the city returned seven Nationalist MSPs to Holyrood.

And she said the party could enjoy another big electoral breakthrough.

She told the conference: "Even people who aren't usually that interested in politics will ask me if the SNP really can win the local elections here in Glasgow."

Alluding to Labour's loss in Glasgow of seven disaffected councillors who formed a new party, Glasgow First, she said: "We face here a Labour Party that is crumbling before our eyes, a Labour Party that is discredited, that is losing councillors hand over fist.

"We are working hard in Glasgow and we are working hard right across our country."

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