Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to resolve the row that has resulted in nine Aberdeen City councillors being suspended from the party for three years.
The newly elected UK Labour leader said he would make changes to party process to ensure the matter was dealt with quickly.
Sir Keir declined to go as far as saying the councillors, who include the Aberdeen administration’s co-leader, Jenny Laing, would be reinstated when asked if that should happen.
I will be making sure there are changes in place across all disciplinary cases to ensure things are resolved much more quickly than they are at the moment.”
Sir Keir Starmer
But he said the case had been going on “far too long” and needed “to be resolved”.
“One of the things that I said loud and clear in my leadership bid was that all disciplinary cases need to take place a lot more quickly,” the UK Labour leader said.
“So I will be making sure there are changes in place across all disciplinary cases to ensure things are resolved much more quickly than they are at the moment.”
The group was suspended by then Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale for forming a power-sharing pact with the local Tories in the aftermath of the 2017 local elections in May.
Since then the group, which dubbed itself Aberdeen Labour, has been sitting on the council while waiting for a decision on their future in the party from Labour’s ruling executive.
The dispute has proved long and fractious with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard facing calls to back or sack the councillors.
More recently the election of Jackie Baillie to Scottish Labour deputy leader and the appointment of Ian Murray to Shadow Scottish Secretary has bolstered the councillors’ hopes that they will be readmitted to the party.
Both Ms Baillie and Mr Murray have both called for their reinstatement.
Councillor Laing said she welcomed the UK Labour leader’s remarks.
She said: “I am delighted that the new Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has agreed to resolve this matter. It has been almost three years since we were suspended and all nine of us remain committed to our socialist values and are keen to continue to play our part within the Labour family.”
Sir Keir was asked about the status of the councillors in a zoom press briefing with the Scottish media before he took part in virtual discussions with members of the public from Fife and Glasgow.
The UK Labour leader said he had wanted to visit Scotland in person to start rebuilding trust in his party north of the border.
He said he was “deeply conscious” that there was now less than a year until the next Scottish election and he said he would work hard to ensure that Scottish and UK Labour were “as one” campaigning for 2021.
Winning in Scotland was “very important” to the party, Sir Keir said. The Labour leader was also asked about warnings the oil and gas industry could shed 30,000 jobs as a result of the virus and the low oil price.
Sir Keir said the oil industry was “extremely important” to Scotland and warned the Covid-19 crisis put it in “even greater jeopardy”.
He called on the UK Government to minimise the economic damage by introducing more flexibility to the furlough scheme so staff can make a staggered return to work. He also called for an extension to furlough support given that many schemes were due to finish at the end of June.