THE Scottish Labour leader has accused the SNP leader of Scotland's largest local authority of putting her party before the interests of her city.

Anas Sarwar launched a scathing attack on Susan Aitken during an interview with The Herald to mark the first anniversary leading his party and ahead of the Scottish Labour conference which starts tomorrow.

Labour suffered a set of devastating results at the last council poll in 2017 - with the biggest humiliation losing Glasgow city council to the SNP for the first time.

READ MORE: Donations to Scottish Labour hit £1 million under Anas Sarwar leadership

Ahead of COP26 held in Glasgow last autumn Labour pilloried the SNP over its running of the city claiming not enough was being spent to keep the streets clean and free from rats and rubbish. The party also spearheaded a successful community campaign last year over planned library closures. 

Speaking to The Herald Mr Sarwar said he wanted Labour to regain Glasgow city council or certainly make "significant gains".

HeraldScotland: SNP Councillor Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, pictured in George Square. Photograph by Colin Mearns..4 September 2020

"We have to have an ambition to win in Glasgow and that is going to require a significant change...We have selected a strong set candidates, we've got our campaign up and running and I want us to have the ambition of winning in Glasgow and certainly making gains," he said.

"I think you have seen a real neglect of the city of Glasgow  [since the SNP took control]. Anyone who walks through the city or down its streets can see the neglect. There is a council which doesn't understand how to regenerate the city."

Under last month's budget council tax will rise by 3 per cent in Glasgow - similar to elswhere in Scotland - as the SNP and Greens backed a budget which they said would ease the cost of living and tidy up the city’s streets.

The budget also saw a £100 payment to help people aged over 80 in the city heat their homes scrapped again, sparking a row between Labour and the SNP.

The city’s Labour group criticised the joint SNP/Green budget for removing the affordable warmth payment while fuel bills rise. Councillor Malcolm Cunning, the Labour group leader, said the move was robbing the elderly while “costs are rocketing”.

Ahead of the Glasgow's budget decisions, local authorities across Scotland had criticised a £371 million real-terms funding cut to them in this year's Scottish Government draft budget, with umbrella group Cosla warning large tax hikes were inevitable. 

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes subsequently announced an additional £120 million for councils to try to avoid "inflation-busting" council tax rises and to support people with the cost of living.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Sarwar compared the Labour mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, who has been a vocal critic of UK and Scottish Government, policies towards the English city, with Ms Aitken.

He said: "If you look at the way Andy Burnham in Manchester has been willing to take on the UK Government - and on one occasion the Scottish Government - to champion his city.

"Where were the voices for Glasgow? Why don't will have a leader in Glasgow who is willing to stand up for the city, willing to take on her own political party and the Scottish Government? At the moment sadly we have a council leader who is out of touch...and who takes her orders from Holyrood and from the SNP centrally."

He added: "Susan Aitken's first concern is the SNP not Glasgow."

A SNP spokesman hit back and said: "Just a month ago Anas Sarwar peddled false scare stories about the SNP in Glasgow only for Labour’s city budget to propose cutting our pioneering anti-child poverty initiatives.

"Now that he’s moved on from that disinformation campaign maybe he’d like to reflect on any number of SNP successes, from the record attainment in Glasgow’s schools to our fair work initiatives.

"Glasgow Labour and Anas’s Scottish branch office have offered no positive solutions on dealing with the pandemic, Covid recovery, the climate emergency or the cost-of living crisis.

"They have no vision for any of the big issues of our times. Anas’s new logo and a fresh round of regurgitating his hackneyed lines will do nothing to help Glaswegians."

The budget also saw the cost of school lunches rise from £1.90 to £2. A revised pricing structure for resident parking permits in existing permit zones will be introduced from January 2023, where the cost of purchase will be based on vehicle emission values.

On street parking costs will also increase, as well as the cost of residents parking permits within Glasgow City.

Glasgow city treasurer Ricky Bell set out how the council will cover a £19.7 million shortfall and respond to “Covid recovery, the cost-of-living crisis and the priorities identified by our citizens”.

More than £25m will be spent on neighbourhood deep cleans, and £1m will be given to each of the 23 council wards for priorities such as pothole and pavement repairs.

Last November the Scottish Government stepped in and agreed to fund the reopening of a group of libraries following the Labour led campaign.

The future of branches at Maryhill, Whiteinch, Barmulloch and the Couper Institute in Cathcart were all uncertain after they failed to reopen following the winter lockdown.

But they reopened after a successful application was made to the Scottish Government's new libraries fund.

Glasgow Life - which runs cultural facilities on behalf of the city council - faced a cash crisis after its revenues dried up when services were forced to close during the pandemic.