They have always ranked among Scotland's most enthusiastic twinners.

Glasgow councillors - always, they say, international in their outlook - have already sealed friendships with seven cities on three continents.

Yesterday senior members backed an eighth twinning, and marched into the holiest of rows. The council will add Bethlehem in the Holy Land to its existing twins of Havana in Cuba, Marseille in France, Lahore in Pakistan, Dalian in China, Nuremberg in Germany, Rostov in Russia and Turin in Italy.

Few doubt that the Palestinian city needs all the friends it can get. But the SNP once again questioned why Scotland's biggest city feels the need to have quite so many twins.

"Why do we need so many?" asked John Mason, the SNP councillor who leads the opposition. "The time must surely have come to review our twins and why we have them."

Officials last night said the new twinning would be covered by the council's existing international budget. But with a second council tax freeze in two years, money is tight in Glasgow.

Councillors' travel expenses are certain to be under the microscope.

Mr Mason said: "There is a real, economic reason for twinnings with cities such as Nuremberg and Marseille. Then there are the political ones. Bethlehem, I suspect, is one of those."

The city, which is run by the Palestinian Authority, has been one of the main victims of the huge security wall erected by the Israelis in recent years.

Tourists and pilgrims are finding it harder to visit, and the economy is struggling.

Continuing unrest in the Middle East also means that the city will, according to Glasgow council officials, find it hard to live up to its part in any twinning deal.

Officials, in a council report seen by The Herald, said: "Although there is a clear will within the Bethlehem government to progress the friendship agreement towards a formal town twinning, the current political situation within Palestine makes it difficult to see how this relationship could be developed in a manner that easily meets the council's twinning criteria.

"There are, however, opportunities to develop a relationship which focuses on the provision of advice and the transfer of knowledge to assist the improvement of economic and social conditions within Bethlehem, rather than the more conventional town twinning activities of trade development, educational exchanges etc.

"This would be broadly similar to the way in which links with Rostov, Dalian and Havana first began."

Glasgow has already done a lot to support Bethlehem. Former Lord Provost Alex Mosson, one of the main forces behind the latest twinning, has led efforts to forge closer relationships. Dignitaries have exchanged visits, as have youth groups.

It is not just Labour councillors who support the move. Christopher Mason of Glasgow's Liberal Democrats backed the decision.

He said: "Glasgow has a long-standing association with Bethlehem and it is quite right that civic communities in Britain should show their sympathy with the ordinary people of Palestine."

The council's ruling cabinet or executive will make a final decision next week. The Labour-dominated group will give its seal of approval, The Herald understands.