SCOTTISH Labour have been accused of advocating for “direct rule” from Westminster over Scotland amid a row over council tax.

Labour’s Inverclyde council leader Stephen McCabe wrote to Tory ministers this week urging them to intervene and stop the Scottish Government from going ahead with pausing the levy.

He pleaded with Michael Gove – the UK minister for Levelling Up – to fund local authorities directly, prompting fury from Alba who accused McCabe of disrespecting the devolution settlement.

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They urged Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to distance himself from the remarks, whose party declined to say if he supported McCabe’s position.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison offered £147 million in funding to keep council tax at current levels, with an additional £45m incoming from the UK Government’s Budget in the coming weeks.

Argyll and Bute Council has pushed ahead with a 10% increase in council tax, and Inverclyde also looks set to defy the freeze. However, the majority of other local authorities have already accepted the freeze, with the rest set to confirm their positions by the end of the week.

It comes as Greenock and Inverclyde SNP MSP Stuart McMillan pointed out that the local authority will receive less funding if it defies the freeze than accepting Holyrood funding.

The National:

McCabe contacted Gove (above) and asked him to bypass the Scottish Government, writing: “I am seeking your urgent intervention to ensure that all councils in Scotland receive a share of this additional funding, should it be allocated by the Chancellor in next week’s UK Budget.”

Alba general secretary Chris McEleny accused Labour of seeking some “national limelight” rather than focusing on the impact on household budgets.

“This proposal would completely disregard the entire foundation of devolution and instead the UK Government would determine that it is best placed to determine how the Scottish Parliament should allocate the resources it has responsibility for,” he said.

“This would amount to nothing less than direct rule of the finances of Scottish councils by Westminster.”

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McEleny again urged Sarwar to distance himself from the proposals by McCabe and “confirm that he believes it is for the Scottish Parliament to determine how Barnett consequentials are allocated” rather than Westminster.

The National asked if Sarwar supported McCabe’s position and believed that Westminster should intervene. In response, a Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “The solution to the situation facing Scotland’s councils is for the SNP to end 17 years of cuts and fund local government properly.”

Elsewhere, SNP MSP McMillan (below) wrote to the Scottish Government regarding Inverclyde’s plans to impose a two-year budget defying the freeze with an 8.2% increase next year and a 6% increase the following year.

He wrote to the Deputy First Minister asking what the impact of this hike or accepting the freeze would be on the local authority’s settlement.

The National: Stuart McMillan MSP

In her response, Robison indicated that Inverclyde’s share of additional money “would be around £2.9m” if it implements the council tax freeze. The 8.2% increase in council tax is projected to raise an additional £2.87m, by comparison.

The Finance Secretary went on to say: "As such, it is clear that Inverclyde Council is being offered funding for a council tax freeze that is approximate equivalent value to the 8.2% council tax increase that has been proposed by the Labour group."

“Make no mistake, the additional money from the Scottish Government means Inverclyde Council does not need to increase the council tax – as it is equivalent to the amount of funds an 8.2% increase would provide,” McMillan said.

He urged councillors to reconsider hiking the council tax ahead of a Budget meeting on Thursday.