PUBS in Glasgow have been given the green light to open from 11am on Sundays, in a move widely viewed as intended to defy the city council's political leadership.

The licensing board – headed by two de-selected Labour "rebels" – gave the go-ahead after a closed-doors meeting yesterday, claiming support for the proposal far outweighed opposition.

But while the chairman and the vice-chairman both insist the move was not politically driven, it is being seen as a populist strike by Glasgow First against Labour just 10 days before the local elections.

All but one of the other board members belong to opposition parties.

Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader of the council – whose administration last year launched its own crusade against the ill-effects of alcohol – previously said earlier Sunday opening was "the wrong move at the wrong time" but is legally powerless to do anything about the decision.

The licensing board said the NHS were the main opponents of earlier Sunday opening, with Strathclyde Police expressing some unease because of the impact on resources.

The Chamber of Commerce, lobbyists and the licensed trade were among the respondents most in favour.

In total, 48% "strongly agreed" with the move, while 21% "agreed". A quarter of respondents "strongly disagreed".

It now leaves Edinburgh and parts of Lanarkshire as the remaining areas in Scotland where Sunday opening remains at 12.30pm. In some areas Sabbath drinks are served from as early as 10am.

Although "permitted hours" will now be from 11am to midnight, pubs will have to apply individually. Restaurants and hotels will also be included.

Premises where there may be concerns over early openings, particularly around Rangers and Celtic football games, could have conditions attached whereby the early hours opening does not apply on the days of the Glasgow Old Firm derby.

Andy Muir, vice-chairman of the board and leading member of Glasgow First, said: "If Gordon Matheson was so opposed to this then, instead of grandstanding comments, why not make a formal objection or address the board and say why he was opposed? He did neither.

"In these austere times voters are more concerned about their welfare and livelihoods than pub opening times and I can't see this being an issue on the doorsteps. It's not been a political decision but it's fair to say there's an element of having your cake and eating it."

Mr Matheson, whose ward includes the city centre, said the move was a "retrograde step".

He added: "I find this decision utterly perverse, and would actively support moves to overturn it. I cannot see a good reason for it and think due weight has not been given to the views of those who live in the city centre. "

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association, whose membership includes 150 Glasgow pubs, said: "This is a very welcome decision and a change for which the trade has been pressing for nearly two years.

"It brings Glasgow into line with the vast majority of other boards across Scotland on the issue of Sunday trading. It's great news for sports fans as well as visitors to the city."

The group will now lobby the Scottish licensing boards who have so far resisted early Sunday opening, asking them to reconsider their position in light of the Glasgow decision.

A spokesman for Glasgow's Licensing Board said: "After considering the various responses to the consultation on 11am opening on a Sunday, the board agreed unanimously to amend the policy. On-sales premises will now be eligible to apply to have their Sunday opening hours varied in line with the new policy. All applications will be treated on their own merits."