DEPUTY First Minister Shona Robison has revealed a decision to freeze council tax next year was only taken in the 48 hours leading up to Humza Yousaf’s speech at SNP conference.

Yousaf announced there would be no rise in council tax on Tuesday during his inaugural address to party conference in a bid to help Scots who are seeing their household budgets squeezed by the cost of living crisis.

But the move has been met with a major backlash by local government body Cosla which said there was “absolutely no agreement” with them to implement a freeze.

The organisation described the move as “deplorable” and that “real anger” had been expressed about the way it had been handled and the “risk” it poses to council budgets.

Shona Robison was questioned on Good Morning Scotland about how the SNP came to a decision on the matter.

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She said it was never given the green light by Cabinet and was only finalised in the final moments before the speech.

Asked when Cabinet signed off on the measure, she told the BBC: “This wasn’t signed off by cabinet.

“This was a discussion that happened at political cabinet and there were decisions made after that.

“It was a very short period of discussion that happened in the few days running up to the First Minister’s speech.

“He did that because he has been listening to the views of the people of Scotland, the fact that household budgets are under strain and he wanted to respond to that.

“The decision was made in the 24 to 48 hours before the speech.”

Robison was asked why the move was not discussed with local authorities or the Greens, who the SNP are in a cooperation agreement with in Government.

Within minutes of the announcement, the Greens voiced concerns about the policy, with finance spokesman Ross Greer saying they were “concerned about the effect this freeze could have on already-strained frontline public services if it is not properly funded". 

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Robison said: “The normal consultation and communications methods we would follow were not followed because of the nature of the announcement.

“It was a late decision, the discussions had been had late on and were kept pretty much under wraps.

“I’ve spoken to Cosla directly and I understand their concerns.

“This is a one-off freeze that will mean the Scottish Government will fully fund the council tax rises which councils otherwise would have been putting through which would have impacted on household budgets.”

Robison was pushed to explain how if, for example, funding would work given different councils will have been planning different levels of increase to tax.

The deputy FM was also quizzed about what appears to be a diversion from the Verity House Agreement (VHA).

The VHA was designed to “reset the relationship” between councils and the Scottish Government and included a pledge of “improved engagement” on budgetary matters.

Robison added: “What we’ve said to Cosla is we’ll negotiate the quantum with them because we understand local authorities were planning different rates and we want to make sure this is fully funded in a reasonable and fair manner and that will be a negotiation with Cosla.

“In terms of the Verity House Agreement, it is important for a number of reasons, not least the reduction of ring fencing and moving forward with a different fiscal framework, so there is still a lot to be gained by local government through the Verity House Agreement.”