Aberdeen could be millions of pounds worse off every year if its money came directly from Westminster, as is hoped by council bosses.
Research by the House of Commons Library shows Scottish councils would have been nearly £1.6 billion worse off since April 2016, if their annual funding was decided by the UK Parliament – though parliamentary statisticians warn like-for-like comparisons are difficult.
It comes after the city council agreed to open talks with UK ministers about direct funding, essentially bypassing Holyrood in the process.
Despite co-leader Douglas Lumsden’s plan being viewed as an attack on devolution by opponents, the council agreed to have chief executive Angela Scott write to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to ask if ministers would deal directly with Cosla and Aberdeen to ensure the city’s “fair share” after years of low funding.
Ms Scott was also told to write to the umbrella council funding body, confirming support for UK plans to deal directly with local authorities in dishing out its new Shared Prosperity Fund, newly set up after Brexit.
Aberdeen City Council’s initiative was lauded by leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg as an attempt to “escape” the SNP.
But the nationalists have now brandished figures from the Commons library, showing the change in council funding from both parliaments.
Compiled by the Westminster statisticians informing MPs, the briefing shows a 15.6% fall in council funding in England between 2016 and March 2020, compared to a small increase in cash terms in Scotland.
SNP Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart, said: “We know that Douglas Lumsden’s proposal was completely delusional, but what these figures show is they are also dangerous and would cripple Aberdeen.
“The last thing our city needs is to be subjected to the brutal cuts English local authorities have witnessed in recent years – to see Aberdeen’s budget slashed like we’ve seen down south would be completely devastating.
“While Mr Lumsden’s proposal had no basis in reality, the fact that he tried to argue the case is staggering – these figures should really put the matter to bed and I hope Mr Lumsden’s withdraws his foolish proposal.
“Aberdeen needs strong leadership at this moment in time, not ridiculous grandstanding from Douglas Lumsden and his Tory chum Jacob Rees-Mogg.”
However, these figures can only be viewed as indicative due to differences in the way both countries fund councils.
In 2018, a senior researcher at Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said comparing settlements directly “really runs the risk of being a case of comparing apples to oranges”.
Differences in regimes for police, fire, health care, council tax and business rates make comparisons anything but straight forward.
The row also comes only months ahead of the Holyrood election, as Mr Lumsden, a Conservative, challenges Mr Stewart for his Aberdeen Central seat.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “It appears to me that with an election looming in May, Kevin Stewart MSP is running scared that citizens in Aberdeen, are finally seeing through his inability as local government minister to properly finance the city that he represents.
“The figures he has produced are nonsensical and meaningless to each and every citizen in Aberdeen given devolution is the settled will of the people.
“The truth of the matter is, council instructed our chief executive to write to the UK Government and Cosla asking amongst other things that, the Barnet Formula consequential monies be allocated directly to councils as opposed to the Scottish Government.
“As Aberdeen remains one of the lowest funded councils in Scotland the actions of the local government minister Kevin Stewart MSP continue to put the citizens of Glasgow and the Central belt before his own citizens in Aberdeen.”