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SNP councils warn Cosla: You do not speak for us

SNP-led councils have warned the Labour-dominated umbrella body that represents local authorities that it doesn’t speak for them.

Nine council leaders and two deputy leaders where power is shared have hit out after a statement by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) putting it on a collision course with Holyrood parties by defying their pledge to freeze the council tax.

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Cosla said the freeze, a key election pledge for the SNP, Labour, Tories and LibDems, was unaffordable and would be blocked by council chiefs.

However, in a statement yesterday the SNP council bosses said: “Cosla does not speak for council administrations. The SNP Government fully funded the council tax freeze during the last parliament and will fully fund it for the whole of the next.

“The SNP’s policy to freeze the council tax for the next five years is unquestionably the right one for Scotland.

“It provides vital relief for local people as they face soaring fuel and VAT bills because of UK Government policies, which is why it is crucial that the SNP Government is re-elected.

“Cosla officials do not speak for council administrations, nor do they speak for the people of Scotland who welcome and value the SNP’s policy to freeze council tax throughout the next parliament.”

Cosla declined to comment.

In its manifesto, which will be launched today, the Green Party sets out plans to raise at least £200 million a year by putting five pence on the Scottish Variable tax rate.

The party says this would mean anyone earning £20,000 a year would pay an additional £1.20 a week in tax, while someone earning £44,875 would pay £3.60 more a week.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “No-one wants to raise taxes, but neither do Scots want to see vital public services go to the wall.

“Alongside a shift to land value tax, that would cut bills for more than 85% of Scots households, this move is likely to be essential to avoid the worst of the UK Government’s cuts agenda.

“Pressure on household bills is very real, but the way to create the biggest savings for people is through reduced public transport fares, energy efficiency, local food networks, and preventing property bubbles.”

Mr Harvie said an explanation of how the party’s objectives could be achieved would be revealed in the manifesto.

On the campaign trail in Aberdeen yesterday, SNP leader Alex Salmond said a re-elected SNP Government would increase NHS resources by at least £1 billion over the next four years.

He also pledged £30m for improving cancer services through early detection and added that the NHS would stay in public hands.

Mr Salmond said: “Where the other parties missed their waiting times targets, failed to meet cancer treatment times, threatened to close local services and left people without access to essential dental services, the SNP has worked with the NHS to create a health service that is fit for purpose.”

Also campaigning in Aberdeenshire, LibDem leader Tavish Scott promised more help for the tourism industry through the creation of regional development banks.

Mr Scott said: “Tourism is Scotland’s biggest industry. It creates and sustains thousands of jobs across the country.

“Our regional development banks will get money into more local businesses, let down by the greedy banks. They would have responsibility for promoting their home region with a regional tourism policy.

“We would also examine rates holidays for seasonal tourist businesses to keep Scotland open all year round.”

The Conservatives returned to tax as their theme of the day claiming only they had a “credible” policy.

Party leader Annabel Goldie, speaking in Inverness, claimed: “Only the Scottish Conservatives aspire to a dynamic, entrepreneurial, low-tax Scotland.”

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