Fife Council's leader said he has been "blindsided" by the council tax freeze announced by the Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf this week. 

Mr Yousaf announced yesterday (Tuesday) in his SNP party conference speech that council tax rates will be frozen in the next financial year to protect households from the ongoing cost of living crisis. 

Today, Fife Labour administration leader David Ross hit back at the decision and called some of the SNP claims “laughable”. 

“This announcement has come out of the blue," he said. "It is a desperate attempt by a failing government to buy votes and political opportunism of the worst kind with no thought for the consequences. 

“All councils are in different financial positions and decisions on local council tax should be left to individual councils and not imposed centrally from Holyrood.”

Mr Yousaf insisted the Scottish Government would be fully funding the freeze to ensure council could continue providing the services "on which we all rely", and that this is on top of the real-terms increase to local government revenue funding this financial year. 

But Cllr Ross hit back: “The claim that the council tax freeze will be fully funded is laughable.

“The cost [of the freeze] will be at least £100 million. That is £100 million that could have been spent on supporting social care for the elderly, helping fix our roads or invested in education for our children. 

“For many councils this will mean more cuts to vital local services and more job losses impacting on the local economy.” 

Cllr Ross believes Fife would be in a better position than many other local authorities, but believes the council tax freeze will mean less money for services.  

“As one of the larger councils in Scotland, Fife should be able to weather the storm this coming year, but it means we won’t be able to put extra funding into tackling poverty, fixing Fife’s roads, raising attainment in our schools or addressing the challenge of climate change," he said. "And it will simply be storing up problems for future years.” 

Meanwhile, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the national association of Scottish councils, has cast doubt over Mr Youssaf's decision to freeze council tax.

COSLA held an emergency meeting of political group leaders this morning. Following the meeting, they claimed there was “absolutely no agreement to freeze council tax next year”.

A statement from COSLA reads: “The announcement of a council tax freeze was made completely without reference to local government and there is no agreement to freeze council tax next year. The decision to freeze council tax is one which can only be made by councils. 

“Our Cross-Party Group Leaders held an emergency meeting first thing this morning on the back of the announcement and there is real anger at the way this has been handled and what it puts at risk.” 

An urgent meeting is being sought with Mr Yousaf about the tax freeze, with COSAL deploring both the way the announcement was made and its substance. 

“We will explore the implications arising and what the Scottish Government might propose when we meet with the Deputy First Minister later today – but we are clear that local taxation and particularly council tax should be left for democratically elected councils to determine.”