LOCAL authorities will be stretched to “breaking point” and jobs will be lost as a result of Scottish Government cuts, councils have said.

Council leaders met on Thursday to discuss the ramifications of this week’s Scottish Budget and said their funding had been cut in part because of the SNP’s decision to freeze council tax.

SNP councillor Shona Morrison, who is also president of the local authority body Cosla, warned some council services would need to be cut entirely – potentially including libraries and leisure centres.

Analysis published by Cosla earlier in the week said councils were facing total cuts worth £350.5 million. 

Of this, councils are facing a "shortfall" of £156m because the money the Scottish Government allotted to councils for the council tax freeze fell short of the £300m it would cost to fully fund the policy.  

It comes as the Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in Government, tried to distance themselves from the controversial decision to freeze council tax.

The National: ROSS GREER

Writing in the Daily Record, Ross Greer (above) said the policy “would not be a Green choice”.

Cosla has said it is seeking “urgent discussions” with the Scottish Government before the finalised Budget is presented to Parliament.

'Cuts and job losses' 

Morrison said: “Cosla’s initial analysis, shows a real terms cut to our revenue and capital spending power which will leave council services at breaking point, with some having to stop altogether. 

“The Budget in its current form could result in service cuts, job losses and an inevitable shift to providing statutory services only.

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“This means potentially losing libraries, leisure centres and all the things that improve our lives.”

The Cosla president also contested the Scottish Government’s claims the council tax freeze was “fully funded”, adding: “Leaders from across Scotland agreed today that decisions on council tax can only be made by each full council, and it is for each individual council to determine their own level of council tax. 

“With any sort of shortfall in core funding, the £144m revenue offered for the freeze is immediately worth less.”

The National: Shona Robison

Finance Secretary Shona Robison (above) had previously defended the decision – which sees councils funded by the Scottish Government the equivalent of increasing council tax by 5%  – as “fair”.

'A devastating blow' 

But Steven Heddle, Cosla’s vice president and an independent councillor in Orkney, described the cuts to council budgets as "devastating” and warned they may also mean councils are unable to meet climate targets.

He said: “The cut to revenue funding we have been given is a devastating blow and the cut to our capital funding means that we will be unable to meet our targets in terms of a move towards net zero and mitigating climate change targets.”

READ MORE: Douglas Ross called out for claim higher rate tax rise will damage NHS

Katie Hagmann, the organisation’s resources spokesperson and an SNP councillor in Dumfries and Galloway, said: “The Scottish Government has disappointingly failed to recognise that investment in councils is investment in cities, towns and villages across Scotland.

“As it stands, this is not a good Budget for our communities or the people who deliver our essential front-line services. 

“This is a Budget which will mean job losses – real jobs that support families, and deliver vital services that make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

And she said there was not enough cash to fund pay rises in the new year – raising the prospect that the strikes which brought some services in parts of Scotland to a standstill earlier this year could be replicated in 2024.

The Scottish Government's budget increased as a result of the UK Chancellor's Autumn Statement by 0.9%, accounting for inflation, according to independent forecasters at the Scottish Fiscal Commission. 

In a statement to the press, Robison said: "The Scottish Budget includes record funding of over £14 billion for councils in 2024-25 – a real-terms increase of 4.3% compared with this year’s Budget – should they agree to freeze council tax.

"This represents an increase to local authorities’ overall share of the Budget, in recognition of the crucial role they play to Scotland’s communities.

“The Scottish Government is happy to meet with Cosla to discuss their concerns.”