The party’s Glasgow group, which controls Scotland’s most populous local authority, hit out after analysis in the Sunday Mail revealed the cost the city faces due to equal pay claims dating back to Labour’s time in charge.
In 2022, it was announced that Glasgow Council had agreed to pay around £770 million to settle equal pay claims after discussions with workers represented by Action 4 Equality, the GMB, Unison and Unite unions.
This was formed of some £550m agreed in 2019, and another newly approved £220m.
Glasgow Council had previously approved plans to fund the equal pay settlement by selling key council-owned buildings – including the city chambers and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery – to an arm’s length company before leasing them back.
But it then stressed the buildings will remain in the city’s ownership and people will not experience any difference accessing them on a day-to-day basis.
Reports in the Sunday Mail said that, over 30 years, Glasgow Council would end up paying out some £1.5bn in order to service loans of £770m.
That paper reported that the £550m loan will see service repayments of around £938m, while the less favourable rates on the later £220m loan could cost as much as £608m.
The SNP Glasgow group said the figures were “a stark reminder of the scale of the mess Labour left the city's finances in and the job we have had to do to sort them out”.
They went on: “With Birmingham essentially declaring bankruptcy we can see what would have happened if the city had been left in their incompetent hands.”
A council source told the Sunday Mail: “Nobody is suggesting that the workers, mainly women, who are receiving payouts are not entitled to them, however the financial impact of this will be felt for decades.
“The council is effectively mortgaging off all of the valuable buildings it owns, putting them up as collateral.”
Glasgow Council leader Susan Aitken (below) said: “I made it a priority to put right years of pay inequality in Glasgow. I’m very proud of the progress we have made and to be nearing the end of what has been an enormous challenge.
“The price of discrimination is a high one and Glasgow will be paying it for a long time.
“However, if years of fighting women workers that were seeking justice was perhaps the worst thing this council has done; then I believe the effort over the past five years to bring us to this point has been among the best.
“It has been a hard road. It has been fraught and it has been painful at times – but it has been essential to right an egregious wrong.”
In 2022, then Glasgow Labour leader Malcolm Cunning said the idea his party were solely to blame for the hefty bill to come from the equal pay dispute was “a false characterisation of what happened”.
Speaking at a Glasgow Times hustings ahead of the local elections, he added: “I do think it’s unfortunate to some extent there’s a mythology grown up around this.”
He said the SNP, Tories and even Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity Party had voted for the system that eventually led to the equal pay scandal.
But Aitken said: “I don’t want to get into competing mythologies here but there were several things in Councillor Cunning’s account there with which I take issue – but I can certainly say the hard work has all been done by this SNP administration.”