THE bitter battle for control of one of Scotland's largest local authorities has taken another twist with the attendance records and expense claims of leading SNP figures being publicly revealed by opponents.

In another attempt to scupper the SNP's attempt to take control of North Lanarkshire, Labour has released figures showing the Nationalists' deputy leader on the council has missed almost four out of every five meetings since 2007.

Further figures show Sophia Coyle's father Michael, who is also an SNP councillor in Airdrie, attended just 29% of meetings in the last five years.

At the same time, the pair have racked up the highest mobile phone bills of the 70 elected members on the authority in three of the past four years, with Ms Coyle claiming £21,305 in mileage and phone calls and Mr Coyle collecting £18,626 for the same.

Ms Coyle did not deny the figures, but said she concentrated her role as councillor within her constituency and that this was reflected in her expenses.

She also said she had been a long-time target of Labour in Airdrie, saying she had lodged complaints with the party's leadership over bullying by Labour councillors and that she has had to take time off ill as a result.

The move is the latest in what is shaping up to be Scotland's dirtiest political battleground in the run-up to the May poll, with the SNP expected to mount a realistic challenge to one of only two Labour-run councils.

One SNP candidate, Lyall Duff, has resigned from the party after describing two Catholic midwives who refused to carry out abortions as "money-grabbing witches".

Another, Annette Valentine, who is standing in Motherwell West, was forced to apologise after making comments on Facebook about people with cleft lip and palates.

North Lanarkshire leader Jim McCabe and Scottish Government minister Alex Neil have also been involved in a public spat over claims by Mr Neil that the council is "bloated" and "barely fit for purpose".

Last night, Mr McCabe said: "It is quite shocking that two leading members of the SNP group have such a poor record of attendance.

"Michael Coyle is one of Alex Neil's closest advisers and has been his election agent. Mr Neil is very quick to criticise North Lanarkshire Council workers, claiming they are not delivering quality services for local people. Yet his adviser turns up for work less than 30% of the time.

"Sophia Coyle has an even worse record, missing almost 80% of committee meetings. This is someone who aspires to be a leader within North Lanarkshire Council but who can't be bothered to turn up to work."

Ms Coyle said: "Frankly, I'm not surprised by this. It's Labour's way of working. Even Jim McCabe accepts I'm a hard-working councillor who bases myself in my community, who visits constituents' homes and spends a lot of time talking to them by phone. He also knows what his party colleagues have put me through."

An SNP spokesman said: "Rather than spend time in the Civic Centre listening to Mr McCabe, Michael is out working for his constituents. He holds around 16 surgeries a month, and is the only councillor in North Lanarkshire to make his mobile number available on his website, meaning constituents can contact him at any time day or night.

"This is desperate stuff from Mr McCabe, who must realise he is losing this election campaign and is resorting to smear tactics."