Nicola Sturgeon accuses Anas Sarwar of ‘political immaturity’ over council coalition ban

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Anas Sarwar of “political immaturity” for ruling out coalitions with the SNP after Thursday’s council elections.

The First Minister said she failed to “understand” the Scottish Labor leader’s opposition and claimed she is relaxed about town hall deals between both parties.

She also defended her record on the cost of living crisis after a poll found little support among Scots for her response so far.

Voters go to the polls this week to elect 32 local authorities, with the SNP predicted to post their best result in council elections.

A key campaign issue has been Labor’s hostility to coalitions with the SNP, despite the rivals running councils including Edinburgh, Fife and Stirling.

In an interview with the Record, Sturgeon slammed Sarwar’s position: “It reveals I think a political immaturity but also an oppositionalist mindset,” she said in a cafe in Arbroath.

“Surely the whole point of being in politics and being a leader in politics is you want to make a difference to people’s lives and you can’t do that in opposition.



First Minister Nicola Sturgeon talking to Daily Record Political Editor Paul Hutcheon

“I just don’t understand it and I suspect there’s a lot of deep unhappiness in his local parties across the country.”

“My position is we won’t do deals with the Tories because Tories do a lot of damage to communities. Beyond that it’s for local groups elected for the SNP to judge what is right for local circumstances.”

On whether she is relaxed about the SNP and Labor coming together in councils after polling day, she said: “Yes, if they thought that was right and if policies underpinning that were right.

“Edinburgh is a good example of how Labor and the SNP have managed to work together despite the differences between our parties at national level.

“I think a position that just more or less cements you into opposition is futile in politics.”

The First Minister also addressed an opinion poll which showed that barely one in five Scots believe she had responded well to the cost of living crisis.

The SNP-led Government is increasing the Scottish Child Payment, but its policy of giving a £150 council tax rebate to every household in property bands AD has been blasted by anti-poverty charities.



Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar

She said of the poll: “It doesn’t surprise me. People are really, really struggling just now. And I think if you ask people those kind of questions in a poll, I think the last thing they will want to do is say that any politician at any level of government is doing enough.”

She added: “I think we’re doing a lot, but we will always look to where we can do more.”

On the criticism of the £150 policy, which goes to the wealthy and the poor, she replied:

“That one policy, and it is only one policy, helps about three out of every four households in Scotland. And while, yes, those in the lower bands of council tax will, by and large, be struggling the most, I think people across the country are struggling right now with higher food bills, higher energy bills.

“Secondly, though, that policy and resources for that policy flowed from Treasury decisions. And we were faced with an objective and an imperative to get that help to people as quickly as possible.”

Despite it being a local election campaign, national issues like independence have again dominated.

Sturgeon is committed to indyref2 by the end of next year and wants a joint agreement with Westminster.

However, the Tory Government is refusing to agree so she may have to introduce legislation unilaterally at Holyrood.

Asked if she is confident the Scottish Parliament can legally organise a referendum without an agreement, she said: “I am not interested in having anything other than a legal referendum.”

She said her Government could not practically stage an “illegal referendum”, adding that it wouldn’t “deliver independence”.

Sexual harassment complaints

Another issue is that Westminster authorities have reportedly upheld sexual harassment complaints against two SNP MPs, Patricia Gibson and Patrick Grady.

She declines to comment while the process remains live, but the complainer said last year he felt he was treated like “asbestos” by the SNP when he came forward.

She responded: “I’ve got empathy with anybody who feels the need to come forward and bring complaints of this nature, because I think it must be an incredibly difficult thing for anybody to do. And I take any comments like that really seriously.”

“Whatever needs to be done to reflect on that, we will do.”

She said her previous stance on the Alex Salmond case showed she would not ignore serious allegations: “My relationship with somebody I was previously very, very close to, completely broke down because…I wasn’t prepared to turn a blind eye or cover up, in any way, sexual harassment claims. So I’m never going to do that, however difficult it might be.

“But I am equally not going to drive a coach and horses through the due process that people are entitled to.”

A Scottish Labor spokesperson said: “After 15 years of this SNP government, poverty is on the rise, inequality is on the rise, our communities and our country is more divided than ever, and our local services are being decimated.

“The NHS is on its knees, not because of its workforce, because of the SNP government.

“No wonder First Minister is reduced to name calling – it is easier than accepting her abysmal record of failure.

“Scotland has been failed by the SNP and the Tours, this Thursday, tell them both you’re sick of political game playing and back a party that will always be on your side. Vote Scottish Labor.”

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