COUNCILS are unlikely to raise council tax above three per cent this year amid allegations SNP ministers have moved to “pass the buck” of financial pressures onto local politicians.

Local authority funding will be at a virtual standstill next year, rising just £40m to £11.1billion – but with councils required to bring forward more Scottish Government priorities with ring-fenced cash.

Cosla, the umbrella organisation for Scottish councils, has warned that local authorities face tough decisions in setting their next annual budget after a lack of core funding from the Scottish Government – but has suggested this will be delivered through cuts to services rather than “unpalatable” huge council tax increases.

Gail Macgregor, Cosla’s sources spokesperson, told MSPs that a request from Scotland’s 32 council leaders for an urgent meeting with the First Minister after the Budget has been snubbed, with Ms Macgregor stating Ms Sturgeon “is not willing to meet with council leaders”

In a response letter send to council leaders by the Finance Secretary yesterday, despite a request for a sit-down with the First Minister, only "a meeting with the Cosla presidential team" has bene set up, scheduled for January 20.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Local Government Committee, Ms Macgregor told MSPs that all council leaders, including SNP politicians, have been left angry by the draft settlement from SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

Ms Forbes has allowed councils to raised council tax by an unlimited amount to mitigate the lack of funding being made available for core services - but many local authorities will find their hands tied given the cost and living crisis, surge in energy bills and upcoming elections in May.

Ms Macgregor said: “I’ve never seen leaders as angry as they were at our special leaders’ meeting when we were going through the figures for the settlement and obviously the relaxation around council tax.

“It was unanimous – every council leader or all political persuasions were really deeply disappointed with this settlement.

READ MORE: Council tax rise warning as SNP give authorities free rein

“When we factor in all the additional ring-fenced pressures that we’re going to have to deal with, it makes it a very challenging landscape.”

The Cosla resources spokesperson said the anger was amplified because “the Scottish Government have the ability to raise income tax themselves and chose not to”.

She added: “What they’ve essentially done is pass the buck to local government to fill that funding gap because there wasn’t sufficient funding within the block grant – within the settlement.

“There’s a real anger there amongst leaders that the pressure is now being put on them to make very difficult decisions locally.”

Pressed over whether local authorities could hike council tax by large amounts, given the freedom by SNP ministers, Ms Macgregor said: “I don’t see an appetite from leaders to hit households anymore than is absolutely necessary.

“I think leaders and councillors across Scotland understand the pressures that households are currently under.

“An above inflationary rise in council tax would be seen as very unpalatable so I suspect we will be seeing a roundabout inflationary mark of maybe 3%- which we’ve had in recent years.”

Ms Macgregor also warned that an aspiration for a £10.50 living wage for council workers is “a real pressure on local government” without additional funding.

She added: “We want to deliver for our communities but it’s where we have to cut to continue doing the ring-fenced and protected elements that’s going to cause the difficulty.”

READ MORE: Scottish Budget: Kate Forbes refuses to recognise £100m funding gap fears from councils

SNP MSP Willie Coffey pointed to an increase in funding, in cash terms, to Scottish councils’ annual funding in next year’s Budget.

Ms Macgregor said: “I do recognise that in its totally, there is more money coming to local government. But within that funding, a huge amount of that is going through local government rather than to – we are merely a conduit in the delivery in some of those payments and some of those policies.

“The funding is not directly to local government. There’s a huge amount of ring-fenced pot – which is for delivery of early learning and childcare, its for expansion of free school meals, it’s for music instruction – there’s a plethora of things.”

The Cosla official said that many of those policies have been scaled back by councils over the last few years due to lack of funding from the Scottish Government, but now SNP ministers have “ridden in on a white horse and put funding towards that”, which she warned “really undermines the role of local government”.