FAILINGS within the office run by Nicola Sturgeon’s husband have resulted in the SNP losing control of one of Scotland’s largest councils.
The party was thrown out of power in North Lanarkshire after just 84 days in an emergency meeting triggered by the former leader resigning over a sexual misconduct scandal.
SNP HQ was warned Jordan Linden was unfit for office several years ago, but party officials allowed him to stay in place and become the £45,000-a-year leader of the local authority.
He was forced to quit last month after the Sunday Mail reported he had been accused of making unwanted sexual advances to a teenage male at a party in Dundee in 2019.
SNP HQ was made aware of the allegation at the time, but failed to investigate as there was no formal complaint.
The party’s back office is run by Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the SNP’s £79,000-a-year chief executive.
Mr Linden, 27, subsequently apologised for making his victim uncomfortable, and said he was standing down to look after his own mental health and wellbeing.
His exit threw the minority SNP administration into turmoil and allowed Labour, which had been in power since 1996, to regain control with the support of the Tories.
Jim Logue, the leader since 2016 until May’s local elections saw him deposed, has now returned to his former post, with Paul Kelly resuming his former role of deputy leader.
The SNP had tried to stay in control of the finely-balanced chamber, proposing councillors Tracy Carragher and Alan Masterton as the new leader and deputy.
However the motion to install them was amended by 38 votes to 37, and Labour’s preferred candidates were elected to the positions instead, giving Labour control of the council.
In an added embarassment for the SNP, one of its councillors, Michael Coyle, defected to Labour moments before the emergency meeting began and voted against the SNP.
Mr Coyle has for years worked for SNP minister Neil Gray, who was the MP for Airdrie & Shotts from 2015 to 2021, and is now the seat’s MSP.
Mr Coyle’s daughter Sophia Coyle remains an SNP councillor in North Lanarkshire.
The SNP's 35 votes were backed up by the single Green councillor in North Lanarkshire and one independent, while Labour's 31 votes was backed by five Tories, a British Unionist and Mr Coyle.
North Lanarkshire is Scotland's fourth largest council, has a budget over more than £1billion, and had long been a target for the SNP.
Ms Carragher, now leader of the SNP opposition group, said: "Local people who voted in May’s election will understandably feel aggrieved at this, but my concern and the SNP group’s focus will be on ensuring the continued delivery of the best possible services in North Lanarkshire.”
After the meeting, Cllr Logue, who represents the Airdrie Central ward, said: “It’s a privilege to be elected once more as leader and I am grateful to my colleagues for putting their trust in me.
“While I did not anticipate being in this position, it is clear that there is much to do quickly.
“I am determined to lead an administration which serves all the people of North Lanarkshire, and the most important part of that at this point is ensuring we are doing everything we can to mitigate the cost of living crisis for our residents.
“This is not something the council can solve alone, but it is essential we move fast to ensure all the policies we can bring to bear, and all council services, are aligned to support people wherever possible.
“In doing so, I aim to work with elected members across the whole council in a constructive way.
He added: “Committee meetings will resume over the next week or two.
“This provides a huge opportunity for the council to agree policies across enterprise, growth, education and a range of other areas which achieve our ambitions and make North Lanarkshire the place to live, learn, work invest and visit.”
Cllr Kelly, who represents the Motherwell West ward, added: “I am honoured to be appointed once again as depute leader of the council. There is much to do, the need is urgent, and I look forward to contributing to leading on policies which deliver for, and improve, communities across the whole of North Lanarkshire.
A council meeting to elect a new provost, following the resignation of Councillor Agnes Magowan due to personal family circumstances, will be held in due course.
Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “The Scottish Conservatives were very clear during the local election campaign earlier this year that we were keen to work with other pro-union parties to try to lock the SNP out of power in Scotland’s councils.
“The opportunity to do so presented itself in North Lanarkshire – in the wake of the resignation of the former SNP council leader – so the five Conservative councillors chose to vote with Labour on that basis."