SCOTTISH council leaders have said they will be seeking legal advice after the Edinburgh government said it would intervene to prevent teacher numbers being cut.

The extraordinary move comes as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warns that there is a “crisis in local government funding like never before” and cuts will have to be made somewhere.

On Thursday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that her Government would act to stop councils reducing the number of teachers as a cost-saving mechanism – meaning local authorities would have to look elsewhere.

The high-level intervention came after speculative plans were leaked from Glasgow Council that would have seen teacher numbers cut by around 800 and a shortening of the primary school day.

It is unclear exactly what action will be announced by Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville next week, although funding earmarked for teachers could be ring-fenced to ensure it is spent on recruitment to meet the government’s target of increasing numbers by 3500.

At a Cosla meeting on Friday, leaders from Scotland’s 32 councils expressed “extreme disappointment” at the Scottish Government’s planned intervention, which they said had made the already bad budget situation “worse”.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to 'intervene' to stop councils cutting teacher numbers

Commenting in a joint statement, Cosla spokespeople Katie Hagmann and Tony Buchanan – both SNP councillors – said: “This is an unnecessary and unwanted attack and intervention on our democratic mandate as elected politicians in our own right.

“We are seeing potentially unworkable proposals foisted on us without any prior discussion or consultation with local government – proposals we will be seeking legal advice on.”

They said that the attainment gap was moving “in a positive direction”, and that some 620 extra teachers had been added to the payroll since August. A further 400 had also been hired on a temporary or fixed-term basis, the councillors added.

The statement went on: “We have already written to the Scottish Government with robust evidence of the investment that councils have been making in teaching and pupil support staff.

“We’ve also highlighted the impact that the proposals will have across other council services, with cuts and job losses having to once again be taken from already hard pressed everyday essential service like roads, libraries, and waste.

“It is very disappointing that it has come to this, but we have been honest and upfront with the Scottish Government throughout the budget process.”

Cosla pointed to a “Save Our Education Services” factsheet published in December which warned that savings of around £500m would have to be found in the education budget.

“That equates to: 8500 fewer teachers or 16,000 fewer pupil support staff or 50% reduction in Early Learning and Childcare provision or Cancelled school projects and reduced maintenance,” the sheet states.

Hagmann and Buchanan finished: “This move will not stop councils from being forced to make reductions in the support we provide to children and young people. Local authorities will have to consider cutting pupil support staff, libraries, youth work and other vital services that support the attainment, health and wellbeing of children and young people.”

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Education Secretary Somerville (above) told BBC Radio Scotland on Friday: “We had an agreement last year to improve teacher numbers, and that didn’t happen.

“It’s certainly up to each local authority to decide how they want to spend their money, but if we have an agreement about how that money would be spent, then I would expect that to be fulfilled.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that we are now looking to other means in the next year to ensure that we do see teacher numbers and teacher time protected.

“I think that is very important when you look at the shared commitment that we have around protecting our children and young people’s time within schools and tackling the attainment gap, it’s not surprising that we would want to see teacher numbers supported within that.”