Richard Leonard said the lack of resolution on the suspension of nine Aberdeen councillors from the Scottish Labour party is of “great frustration” to him.
The party leader confirmed the group of councillors still awaits a hearing with the UK party’s national constitutional committee – more than three years on from their suspension.
The entire Labour group on Aberdeen City Council was suspended from the party after entering into administration with the Conservative and Independent Alliance groups following the 2017 local elections.
This is a great frustration to me, that these remain as outstanding cases and there hasn’t been a resolution.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard
When asked during an online press conference with journalists if he could exert any pressure on national party bosses to speed the long, drawn-out process up, Mr Leonard said all he could do was what he had already been doing, which is to encourage the hearing to be “conducted justly but also timeously”.
He added: “When I’m interviewed by members of the press and I’m asked about outstanding cases, this is a great frustration to me, that these remain as outstanding cases and there hasn’t been a resolution.
“I will, and my deputy Jackie Baillie since her election, has been trying to emphasise the importance of getting a resolution on the position of the suspended nine councillors in Aberdeen.”
Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, who also leads the Aberdeen Labour group, confirmed they are currently involved in a process with the national constitutional committee but are still awaiting conclusion of the matter.
During a keynote speech broadcast online on Friday, Mr Leonard also backed the prospect of legal action against those involved in the transfer of Covid-19-positive patients from hospital into care homes.
He said people who had “knowingly decided” to send such patients to care homes, and those who had transferred people into homes when they knew coronavirus was present, “must face justice, if necessary in a court of law”.
The Labour politician said there is “already evidence” that families are planning to lodge prosecutions in Scotland because of the treatment of their elderly relatives in care homes.
He added that in some cases this “may rest” at the level of the care home but in other cases may point to those at a “higher level”.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Labour leader, said the “conduct of Boris Johnson” is the reason behind growing support for independence in the polls.
He added there had been an “incredible amount of media exposure to the SNP” throughout the course of the pandemic, in a way that has “not been available” to other parties.
Mr Leonard said:”Juxtapose Boris Johnson with Nicola Sturgeon and people clearly hold Nicola Sturgeon in much higher regard.”
His party is running third in opinion polls in Scotland, behind the SNP and the Conservatives, and Mr Leonard said he did “not underestimate the scale of the challenge the Scottish Labour Party faces”.
The Scottish Labour leader also used his speech to outline a series of plans he believes could transform the economy and create more than 130,000 jobs.
His plans include the establishment of a National Care Service, to replace the current “broken” care system, and a commitment that a Labour government at Holyrood would build 12,000 council homes a year “to the highest energy efficiency standards”.
Additionally, he voiced support for a £500 million Just Transition fund to assist workers and businesses with the energy transition.
When asked what he would do to support the oil and gas industry, amid fears thousands of jobs could be lost in the sector as a result of Covid-19 and the fall in oil price, Mr Leonard said he did not want to see a situation similar to the collapse of the coal industry where “entire communities were left abandoned”.
He added: “I’m absolutely determined that should not happen to the oil and gas sector.
“We need a transition, which operators in the industry absolutely embrace, but it needs to be a transition which is planned and managed.
“I am absolutely clear that where there is a transferability of skills from the oil and gas sector to those emerging energy sectors, we should look at how we accommodate that.”