CONCERNS have been raised over the prospect of higher council tax bills as a result of the Scottish budget.

Measures approved by MSPs on Thursday included giving council chiefs the green light to raise charges this year by almost five per cent.

Prior to the budget being approved, local authorities were able to impose council tax increases of up to three per cent.

No decision has yet been made on levels of council tax in the local area for 2019/20.

However, should council bosses impose the maximum increase, residents living in an average Band-D property will see their bills, which currently stand at around £1,200 a year, rise by £57.

Murdo Fraser, finance spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the Scottish Government is making it tougher for local families to make ends meet.

He added: “Instead of reducing the tax burden, they’re going to put it up – and the consequence will be the economy will continue to under-perform and we’ll have yet more taxes for hard-working families.”

However, Finance Minister Derek Mackay hailed the budget, which was approved in principle at Holyrood by 67 votes to 58, as a “substantial devolution of power to local government.”

He said: “The Scottish Government has continued to ensure our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement, despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.

“These additional measures will deliver the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution and provide additional funding to support local services.

“This enhanced package offers up to £187million of increased funding and flexibility to councils, on top of the £11billion local government settlement. In total, overall spending power for local authorities next year will be £620million higher than it is currently.”

As part of the deal, the Scottish Government will hold cross-party talks on a replacement council tax system, with the possibility of legislation being published before the end of this Holyrood term if agreement can be reached.

According to Mr Mackay, who is the MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, this could then be taken forward after the May 2021 election.

Other measures agreed in the budget will see charges for plastic bags in shops increased from a minimum of 5p to 10p, while ministers also gave their backing in principle for the introduction of a charge for disposable drinks cups.

In addition, Scottish ministers are to back changes that will let councils bring in a workplace parking levy, with NHS buildings exempt.