RAISING council tax levels amid the cost-of-living crisis would be “utterly indefensible”, West Dunbartonshire’s MP has said.

Martin Docherty-Hughes hit out at councillor Martin Rooney, leader of West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) after it was revealed that he had written to the secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove calling on the UK Government to give money directly to Scottish councils instead of the Scottish Government amid a row over council tax.

The local authority will meet to finalise its budget including setting council tax rates on March 6.

If WDC were to raise its council tax levels it would miss out on a share of £147m in funding from the Scottish Government which has been made available to keep council tax at current levels.

They could also miss out on a share of an additional £45m in funding from the Barnett Consequentials dependent on the UK Government's budget, which will also be delivered on March 6.

In response to Cllr Rooney’s letter SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said the Labour-led council had ‘placed their trust in the Tories rather than accepting millions in funding from the Scottish Government’.

He said: “Labour choosing to hike council tax in West Dunbartonshire during a cost-of-living crisis would be utterly indefensible.

“A decade of Westminster austerity has seen Scotland’s budget slashed by billions. But Labour in West Dunbartonshire places their trust in the Tories rather than accept millions of pounds of funding from the SNP government to deliver a local council tax freeze.

“This is just the latest example of the Tory-Labour UK establishment running roughshod over Scottish devolution.

“As always, it’s left to the SNP to defend our local communities from Westminster’s damaging cuts.”

Marie McNair, Clydebank’s MSP, added: “Everyone knows Labour are hopeless at managing the council budget but how dare they want to impose a council tax bombshell on the budgets of my constituents.

“Trying to form an alliance with the Tories who crashed the economy and are responsible for the lowest standards of living since records began really is a new low.

“That is why nobody takes Labour seriously. The Scottish Government are providing over £14 billion for local government, the highest settlement yet, and are also resourcing a council tax freeze to help household budgets at such a difficult time.

“This is a serious approach that puts my constituents first.”

WDC became the second Scottish council to call on Westminster to intervene in this row following similar calls from Inverclyde Council last week.

Cllr Rooney’s letter reads: “Dear Michael, you will be aware from press reports that the Scottish Government Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Shona Robison MSP, has informed Scottish councils that they will only receive a share of the estimated £45m of Barnett consequentials from the UK Government if they agree to freeze council tax.

“This condition is also being applied to the £147m funding made available to ‘compensate’ for a council tax increase at a level determined by the Scottish Government rather than democratically elected councils.

“In total, this means the Scottish Government is threatening to withhold £192m of funding if councils choose to exercise their delegated power to determine how best to fund and deliver local priorities.

“The combined effect of this is that there is clearly funding available for Scottish councils but instead of it being used to support local services and allowing councils to add to this by raising more income locally, the funding is to be used for a “council tax freeze” meaning all Scottish councils are being forced to make even deeper cuts to their services than they would otherwise need to.

“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 of the Exchequer.

“I have copied this letter to both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Councillor Martin Rooney has been approached for comment.