Local authorities in Scotland should hold a referendum if they want to raise council tax, the Scottish Secretary said.
David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, said councils should be free to raise the levy if they wanted to but should seek a mandate from the public first.
The SNP has come under fire from some quarters for the council tax freeze, which restricts local authorities’ ability to balance the books.
As the party of low taxation, the Scottish Conservatives have found it difficult to attack the policy.
Last week, Moray Council, which is run by an independent-Conservative coalition, proposed an 18% rise, which Mr Mundell said was unlikely to be supported by the electorate.
Asked by The Courier whether he supported the council tax freeze, Mr Mundell said: “I prefer the arrangement in England whereby councils are free to increase the council tax in the way they are not free to do so in Scotland.
“I think that it is consistent with local democracy and decision-making.”
Speaking at the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association lunch yesterday, he added: “I think there are many councils not just Moray Council in Scotland who would consider on the basis of what they see as local needs, of taking a decision to change the local council tax.
“But they should have to do on the basis of support in a local referendum. I’m not intimately familiar with the Moray area, but I would expect an 18% rise would not necessarily command support in a referendum.”
In England, councils must hold a referendum if a levy rise is deemed “excessive”, with the draft thresholds at 2% and 4% depending on whether the authority has responsibility for social care.