Humza Yousaf has criticised Labour-led North Lanarkshire Council's decision to U-turn on plans to close 39 leisure facilities as "cynical politics" of the "absolute worst" kind.

The First Minister linked the shock move to Thursday's Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

Mr Yousaf claimed the change of heart from Anas Sarwar's councillors came off the back of pressure from the SNP and local communities.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar claims he did not give a 'bollocking' to North Lan colleauges

Speaking to journalists during a campaign stop in Blantyre, he said: "It's hardly a surprise to hear that Anas Sarwar has u-turned once again, that is symptomatic of not just Anas Sarwar, but the Labour Party at large.

"They seem to u-turn on decisions left, right and centre.

"The latest u-turn from Labour-led North Lanarkshire council has come on the back of pressure from the SNP, and pressure from local communities in North Lanarkshire."

The First Minister also rejected claims from council leader Jim Logue that it was "a decade of cuts" to the authority's budget that fuelled the initial plan to shut swimming pools, community centres and libraries.

He said: "It's incredible that they somehow managed to blame the SNP despite the fact that they've had an increase in their revenue budget.

"But not only does that fall short as an excuse, the fact is that for 24 hours they were saying that these cuts were 'absolutely necessary, had to be done'.

"Only 24 hours later, in the midst of a by-election, to U-turn shows that as cynical politics.

"The absolute worst."

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire Council is shuttering my childhood dreams

Earlier on the campaign trail Anas Sarwar was also quizzed about the situation in North Lanarkshire and placed the blame squarely on the Scottish Government.

Last week a council committee made up mainly of Labour councillors voted to shut swimming pools, libraries, sports centres and community hubs across the local authority area in a bid to save funds.

Council leader Jim Logue said the local authority's coffers had been squeezed by Scottish Government funding decisions but this morning announced a u-turn, saying his Labour group would now "protect" community assets.

He added, however, that the financial situation at the council is still "dire".

Mr Sarwar denied the move had come due to him "bollocking" his Labour councillors. He said: ""As I made clear, I don't blame Labour councils, I don't blame SNP councils.

"I think councils across the country are having to make really, really difficult decisions that they do not want to make because they don't have a fair funding settlement from an SNP Scottish Government.

"And so my call would be whether you are an SNP councillor or whether you're a Labour councillor, well, let's work together to demand a fair funding deal for local authorities and local communities.

"Stand up for your local community first, not for an SNP Scottish Government that has lost its way, that is demonstrating financial mismanagement, that is completely economically illiterate, that is incompetent, and let's have a fair funding deal in North Lanarkshire, here in South Lanarkshire, also across the country."

The proposed closures caused immediate outrage from local communities and petitions were immediately launched to push back against the cuts.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said North Lanarkshire Council has received an additional £25.4 million in budget allocation from the government this year.

This year the Scottish Government has funded a £13.5 billion local government settlement which provides, they said, a real-terms increase of £376m for councils.

The spokesperson added: "It is for democratically-elected councils to make decisions on the priorities for their local areas and consider how facilities are used.

"While Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution due to ongoing UK Government austerity, this year North Lanarkshire Council will receive £779.7m to fund local services – which equates to an extra £25.4m on last year.

"Work is also ongoing with COSLA to establish a new fiscal framework for councils through the Verity House Agreement, a landmark agreement that is forging a stronger partnership between the Scottish Government and local councils through the spirit of collaboration and engagement.”