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10 January 2017, 06:35
Labour will today unveil its "vision for local government'' ahead of vital Scottish council elections.
While voters do not go to the polls to appoint their local authority representatives until May, Labour will publish a "national framework'' for the elections, which will be followed later in the year by local manifestos.
The launch comes at a time when Labour claims Scotland's councils are facing a £327 million budget cut, with deputy leader Alex Rowley warning of a "crisis'' as a result.
He branded First Minister Nicola Sturgeon the "nation's minister for cuts'' as he pledged Labour would "always protect'' vital local services.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale appointed Mr Rowley, a former leader of Fife Council, to head up the campaign in late 2016, dismissing claims of a rift between her and her number two as "sensationalist nonsense''.
With Labour having slipped behind the Tories to become the third largest party in the Scottish Parliament, the council elections will be a key contest for party leaders.
Speaking ahead of the event in Edinburgh, Mr Rowley said: "Today we are the first party to publish our vision for local government in Scotland.
"Scottish Labour believes that council services are at the heart of people's lives and we will always protect them.
"The First Minister promised voters she would be a champion of the poor and the working class. Instead, she has become the nation's minister for cuts.
"This year, the cuts to local government will amount to £327 million.
"Our councils are in crisis. Scottish Labour wants to invest in public services and the workers who provide then, to ensure all of us have access to the good quality services we value.''
SNP campaign co-chair councillor Susan Aitken said: "Labour have a cheek to claim that their councillors will prioritise investment in public services when they have already privately admitted that their focus in this election will be to cling to power in areas where they can prop up the Tories.
"Indeed, it says it all about Labour that they have been almost completely silent about the years of cuts that the Tories have been inflicting on Scotland's budget from Westminster.
"Despite these cuts, the SNP's budget will see funding for local services increase by over #240 million this year - and we are taking forward a bold agenda of community empowerment to give people greater control over the running of their communities.''