The leader of the SNP group has accused Labour of bullying, intimidation and sexism in a strong attack on the culture of the party in Glasgow City Chambers.

Susan Aitken said Labour has a problem attracting women as council candidates and has put pressure on voluntary sector groups using the threat of funding cuts.

Council leader Frank McAveety defended his administration’s record and said the “personal attacks” were “desperate”.

Ms Aitken said: “The way they conduct themselves as an administration has got worse and worse as this term has gone on.

“The group of people who are the most senior politicians behave in a way that is not fitting for the leadership of Scotland’s biggest city or a local authority of Glasgow’s importance.

“This isn’t new. There is a reason why a lot of women councillors who were elected in 2012 have walked away and are not standing for re-election.

“There is a reason why Labour have appalling gender balance, I think they have only 16 women out of 43 candidates.

“The current leadership thinks leadership consists of throwing your weight around when you don’t get your own way, intimidation, bullying and sexism.

“This is not coming from me, it’s coming from women Labour councillors who complained to Kezia Dugdale.”

She said she is aware of outside organisations who fear for their future if they speak out against the council.

she added: “There are people who work in organisations, I can’t tell you their names as that would be unfair to them, but there are people who feel scared their organisation will be treated badly if they speak out.

“I am aware and heard too often for it to be co-incidence that funding is used as a lever to try to get organisations to behave in a certain way. That is a form of bullying.”

The Council leader said the claims were nothing more than a smear campaign with no evidence brought to the council by the SNP.

Mr McAveety said: “If she wants to trade personal attacks, I’m talking about strategic issues facing the city.

“All I would say is her Government ministers are perfectly happy to work with this council to deliver the Commonwealth Games, housing investment and health and social care. It’s out of order if it gets that personal and she should maybe toughen up a bit.”

Mr McAveety pointed to Labour’s record on promoting gender equality in selecting candidates.

He said: “The Labour party, when the Scottish Parliament was established, was the only party that committed to 50/50 gender balance and delivered on its 50/50 commitment.”

He defended his own record in office in the City Chambers too.

He said: “We have promoted, certainly in my time as leader, more women into senior positions in the council than any equivalent experience in the past and if you look at the council itself some of the most senior portfolios in terms of officers are women. That’s a culture of promoting and encouraging the role that women play in public life.”

“In terms of the central issue here there’s been this subterranean campaign to suggest something is not quite right in the council.

“The SNP had the chair of the two scrutiny committees and they never once brought any of these issue forward at these committees. They have never raised these issues with the Chief Executive so it sounds like desperate attempts to smear rather than address the real issue facing Glasgow which is a lack of money coming from the SNP Government and the fact that the country has been distracted because we are pre-occupied by the Brexit or an independence referendum.”