THE SNP leader of Scotland’s biggest council has bluntly criticised her party colleagues at Holyrood for interfering in local government budgets.

Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council since 2017, said the situation was tough enough without “additional limitations placed on our powers by ministers at Holyrood”. 

Writing today in the Herald’s sister paper, the Glasgow Times, Ms Aitken said the key decisions for the city “must and will be made here in Glasgow”.

She warned the Scottish Government not to meddle or treat councils as “a delivery vehicle for national priorities at the expense of local needs”.

She urged ministers to respect the autonomy of councils and trust them “to address their local priorities, especially given councillors were elected to do that very thing”.

Opposition parties said the “scathing” article showed the depth of anger across local government at years of under-funding and SNP-led centralisation.

The unprecedented public attack from one of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest allies comes amid increasingly bitter wrangling between councils and ministers over money.

The First Minister and acting finance secretary John Swinney insist the budget settlement for 2023/24 will see local government get £550million more than this year.

However the council umbrella body Cosla has said most of that will be swallowed up by inflation and demands for specific spending from ministers.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville yesterday warned councils she might claw back funding if they failed to maintain teacher numbers, an SNP Holyrood manifesto pledge.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to 'recoup' money from councils in teacher row

In her column, Ms Aitken said Glasgow City Council will have to deal with a £61m spending gap when it sets its budget for 2023/24 next week.

To plug it using council tax rises alone would require wholly unrealistic rises of 25 per cent, or an extra £50 per month for a Band D home, and so other tough options were required.

Hinting at painful spending cuts, Ms Aitken said the consequences of the budget would be “severe and far-reaching, impacting on every household in the city”.

She said the Scottish Government’s reliance on Westminster for most of its funding meant Scottish local government was financially restricted too. 

Both had “very limited levers” to help people in their time of need.

However, it was “equally true that councils are being constrained further in their efforts by additional limitations placed on our powers by ministers at Holyrood”. 

She wrote: “I fully understand the competing demands of other public services such as the NHS or the police. I’m not suggesting local government is funded at their expense. 

“What I am suggesting however is that, like other public services, councils like Glasgow have the flexibility and the trust of ministers to address their local priorities especially given councillors were elected to do that very thing.”

Given the scale of the challenges in Glasgow, “the budget decisions we face must be taken by the elected members serving the communities which they know best”.

Ms Aitken, whose Langside ward overlaps with Ms Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside constituency, said she and ministers were “clearly aligned” in many areas, and the city had been “an early and willing partner” in expanding free school meals, nursery and early years education, and rolling out the Scottish Child Payment.

“But what we cannot be is treated solely as a delivery vehicle for national priorities at the expense of local needs,” she added. 

“Almost the entirety of the additional £550m announced for local government in December has to be directed at national priorities.

"It did little or nothing for Glasgow’s budget gap, protecting the policies Ministers were elected on rather than the services local councils are expected to deliver. 

“It’s councillors who are accountable for decisions about local public services.

"Our call to remove the restrictions holding us back from setting local priorities and taking local decisions isn’t just about democracy and accountability, it’s about the very survival of those services at this critical time. 

“Glasgow City Council’s budget needs to fund all of Glasgow’s services and so - with the greatest respect to colleagues at Holyrood - the decisions about it must and will be made here in Glasgow.”

READ MORE: John Swinney warns 'minor' spending pledges could be delayed by budget

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This stinging criticism of Nicola Sturgeon’s government by the SNP leader of Scotland’s largest council lays bare the fury felt by all our local authorities.

“Councils have endured years of systemic underfunding by central government, while at the same time being told increasing areas of their spending must be ring-fenced.

“They can’t go on delivering more for less – it’s time the SNP Government finally gave them a fair funding deal.

“For a party loyalist like Susan Aitken to speak out so bluntly indicates she, like council leaders across Scotland, is at the end of her tether with SNP ministers.

“The days of those COP26 selfies with Nicola Sturgeon are long gone - the Glasgow council leader is at war with her party leader.”

Scottish Labour Local Government spokesperson Mark Griffin added: “These scathing comments reveal the tensions brewing between the SNP government and their local councillors.

“Years of brutal cuts and centralisation have left even the most loyal SNP councillors unable to defend the indefensible.

“Ministers cannot keep treating Councils with such contempt and demanding that they do the impossible.

“The SNP government need to end their relentless attack on local services and make sure Councils have the powers and resources they need to fix crumbling roads, empty overflowing bins and support over-stretched schools.”

Ms Aitken also took a swing at her political opponents, as well as her allies. 

She accused the Tories of failing to shoulder blame for the cost-of-living crisis, “the misery of austerity” and years of real-terms cuts to Holyrood’s financial settlement.

She also took a dig at Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar, a Glasgow MSP, for having his children privately educated at Hutchesons’ Grammar school. 

“Glaswegians rightly question the credibility of someone who uses their personal wealth to opt out of the very council services they claim to care about,” she said.

The SNP was asked for comment.