SETTLING the equal pay dispute afflicting Scotland’s largest council will cost “hundreds of millions of pounds”, its SNP leader admitted, blaming Labour for the bill.

Glasgow City Council boss Susan Aitken, who has previously avoided naming a figure, said the “massive cost” meant a difficult future for the authority.

She said there would be no government bailout, as it was not right for taxpayers across Scotland to fix a problem created in the city by her Labour predecessors.

On some estimates, it could cost more than £500 million to settle back-dated pay claims.

The council is now looking at refinancing its existing debt, borrowing on the market, and selling some of its assets.

Ms Aitken said: “Justice comes with a price and the solution to this issue might be difficult for the council, but that should not be used as an excuse for allowing inequality to continue.”

Ms Aitken’s statement yesterday came at the end of one of her toughest weeks since the SNP took over the City Chambers in May 2017, ending four decades of Labour rule in the city.

More than 8000 council workers staged a 48-hour walk-out on Tuesday and Wednesday in protest at “lack of progress” in long-running pay talks. Primary schools and care services were affected by the strike.

Dating back to 2006, and signed off by Labour, unequal pay arrangements at the council meant workers in female-dominated jobs, such as catering or cleaning, were paid up to £3 an hour less than men in equivalent roles, such as refuse collection.

The walk-out was orchestrated by some of the same unions who represented the caterers and cleaners, among others, at the time to blame for the original unfair deal that helped male workers get more pay than women was made.

Ms Aitken has made resolving the dispute a priority, and there had been hope of an agreement on cost, in principle, by December.

However, lawyers acting for the women say talks with the council are stalemated, with the council refusing to engage seriously with the claimants’ backdated pay demands.

Writing in The National, Ms Aitken said she was “shocked” at the lack of work by previous administrations, who resisted the pay claims, on a potential settlement.

She said Labour in Glasgow failed to learn from other councils in similar disputes, and instead spent more than £2m defending an “indefensible scheme” in court.

She said: “The strike has passed and, after tentative talks in the past few days, equal pay negotiations will resume this week. December remains the target for an agreement.

“Make no mistake, the decision and adherence to a discriminatory pay scheme by Labour comes at a massive cost. This is where the discrimination lay and it will cost the city hundreds of millions of pounds to resolve.”

Ms Aitken said she had talked with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, but there would be no bailout.

“My view is that the Scottish Government does not have the resources to deal with this issue and, frankly, nor should it do so,” she added.

“I have never thought it was credible, or in any way responsible, for Glasgow City Council to insist that people across Scotland pay the price for an issue that is entirely of Glasgow City Council’s making”.

Mark Irvine, of Action 4 Equality, which has led the fight for equal pay, said the reference by Ms Aitken to hundreds of millions of pounds was further than she had gone before.

However, the council needed to engage more with claimants’ demands to get a deal.

He added: “The council can negotiate to reach an agreement in principle by the end of the year. That’s definitely possible. But they have to get serious about addressing the numbers involved. Let’s hope they’re at long last doing that.”