AT LEAST 16 of Scotland’s councillors were behind in their council tax at the start of the year, new figures uncovered by The National have revealed.

Councillor Iain Archie Macneil was the country’s biggest offender, owing Comhairle nan Eilean Siar £11,528.61, down from £14,446.90 when he was elected in 2017.

In Glasgow, five councillors had debts. From the SNP group, Elaine McSporran owed £12,272.80, Alexander Belic owed £1316.92 while Michelle Ferns was behind by £320.35 – all three have now paid in full.

Their colleague in the SNP, Elspeth Kerr, whose initial debt was £12,236.94 now owes £7.128.43, while Labour councillor Cecilia O’Lone has reduced her debt from £17,520 down to £6855.91 In West Lothian, Tory councillor Alison Adamson was due £563.04, but has now paid in full.

In Aberdeenshire, the SNP’s Karen Adam, Victoria Harper and independent John Cox were all in arrears, though the local authority declined to share with The National the amounts each councillor owed.

Councillors Adam and Cox have now both settled their bills.

East Dunbartonshire, Highland, Midlothian and South Ayrshire councils all confirmed that they had one elected member in debt, but refused to name names or amounts.

So too did Renfrewshire Council who would only tell us they had two councillors in debt.

The National submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 32 of Scotland’s councils last month. Only Fife refused to reveal any details, saying the council “does not hold the information”. All other local authorities told us their councillors were up to date with their bills.

If councillors are due money to a local authority then they could find their ability to carry out their job for their constituents restricted.

Under Section 112 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 elected members cannot vote on a budget if they are two or more months in arrears.

READ MORE: Tory councillor and father of Game of Thrones star finally pays off tax bill

The Government’s code of conduct for councillors says: “The law makes specific provision that if a councillor is in two months’ arrears with payment of council tax that councillor may not participate in certain decisions concerning council tax issues, in order to preserve public confidence that councillors are taking decisions in the general public interest.

“Whilst you are a member of the community, you are also a representative of that community and of the council to which you are elected. As there is potential for public perception of abuse of position and poor leadership, you must seek to avoid being in debt to the council.”

If they attend formal meetings about council tax they then have to declare their debt.

Not doing so could see them pushed further into debt, as they’ll have committed an offence and be liable to a fine of up to £1000.

There may be good reason why some councillors have not paid up: serious illness or bereavement, family crises or the collapse of businesses.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Council Tax supports a wide range of frontline services. It is important that everyone that can pay does pay.”

Last week, an SNP MSP called for councillors’ pay to be closer to an MP’s salary of £77,379 a year.

John Mason, deputy convener of the Holyrood Finance Committee, said that many councillors “work just as hard as some MPs” and should be paid accordingly.

Currently most councillors start with a basic salary of just under £16,927, though it can be substantially more if they chair committees or hold other important positions.

It would cost councils nearly £100 million a year to pay 1227 councillors salaries of £77,379.

Mason said: “Members of Parliament are paid some £77,000, members of the Scottish Parliament get £62,000 and councillors get £17,000.

“That seems uneven, given that many councillors work just as hard as some MPs I know.”