Scottish Labour could yet decide to field candidates in direct competition to a group of suspended Aberdeen councillors in next year’s local elections.
Party sources have made it clear they will look to have candidates standing in Scotland’s third largest city, regardless of whether the so-called Aberdeen Nine are readmitted or not.
According to council leader Jenny Laing, the suspended group are yet to even contemplate a backup plan for next May’s local authority poll.
Having been exiled for forming a ruling coalition with the Conservatives days after winning their seats in 2016, her Labour nine were eventually barred from the party until after the next election.
The group has found encouragement in comments from Scottish leader Anas Sarwar this year, but are still yet to be readmitted.
On Friday, Mr Sarwar revealed he was pushing for complaints and disciplinary decisions to be handled in Scotland after those powers were taken down south – a move which would allow him to more easily welcome the councillors he “considers Labour colleagues” back into his party.
While Labour HQ would not comment on whether the Aberdeen Nine were mentioned in name by Mr Sarwar during his visit to London last week, it is understood there is an appetite, generally speaking, for expelled allies to be readmitted.
Whatever the status of the estranged councillors come next year’s local election, sources admit it is “quite probable” Labour will field candidates in Scotland’s third largest city.
It could mean long-time Labour stalwarts – including current council leader Jenny Laing and Lord Provost Barney Crockett – would be vying to keep their seats against party-backed candidates.
Aberdeen Nine’s eggs remain fully in Scottish Labour’s basket
However, Mrs Laing has told Aberdeen Journals her pariahs remain faithful to Labour – seemingly without a backup plan to secure their political futures.
She said: “We fully expect the Labour Party to field candidates in Aberdeen at the local government election due to take place in May 2022 and, despite our ongoing suspensions, we are hopeful that those candidates will include current Aberdeen Labour councillors.
“I can therefore confirm that no discussions have taken place regarding Aberdeen Labour councillors standing for election as either independent candidates or candidates for a breakaway party.”
While it may seem obvious that Labour would look to maintain control of the local authority, as it has since 2012, the implication that they would do so with or without the Aberdeen Nine will remind the group that a return is far from secure.
Either way, Labour Party rules mean it will be local branch members who decide whether to stand candidates against them – meaning there will be no edict from on high about whether to put up opposition against their former colleagues, if the suspension remains.
It also remains unclear if the Aberdeen Nine will be reduced in number, if current members were to choose not to stand for council again.