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Scottish government to lift public sector pay cap

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Nursing and midwifery unions have welcomed a clear commitment by the Scottish government to take action to lift the cap on public sector pay.

Yesterday in the Scottish Parliament the cabinet secretary for finance, Derek Mackay, confirmed the government “has committed to lifting the pay cap”.

”We will take a reasonable approach that absolutely recognises that the time is up for the 1% pay cap”

Derek Mackay

He said the government recognised that “time was up” for the annual 1% limit on pay and would be meeting with trade unions to discuss the way forward.

“We understand the situation of people in the workforce on the lowest incomes, whose spending power has reduced as a consequence of rising inflation,” he said.

“That is why we have a position that will take account of the public finances and the cost of living,” he added.

Mr Mackay indicated the government would be looking to take a different approach to public sector pay from next year.

“The first minister has already indicated that the existing pay cap is becoming increasingly unsustainable, and we will be looking to take a different approach in the 2018-19 public sector pay policy,” he told MSPs.

“As in previous years, we will engage with unions during the development of the policy, both at ministerial level and at official level, and we expect to publish it as part of the draft budget towards the end of the year,” he said.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously signalled the SNP-led government was prepared to abandon the pay cap and it was a key pledge in the party’s general election manifesto.

“We will be looking to take a different approach in the 2018-19 public sector pay policy”

 Dereck Mackay

However SNP MSPs recently voted against a Labour motion to end the pay cap and give NHS a “real terms pay rise”.

When quizzed on this by Labour SMP for South Scotland Colin Smyth, Mr Mackay reiterated the Scottish government would “take inflation into account in future pay policy”.

“Remember that what the Labour Party proposed was basic rate tax rises for the workers of Scotland, including public sector workers,” said Mr Mackay. “We will take a reasonable approach that absolutely recognises that the time is up for the 1% pay cap. Not only will the SNP commit to that, but we will do it,” he said.

Mr McKay’s statement has been welcomed by nursing and midwifery leaders, including the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland.

“The 1% cap on nursing pay which has been in place since 2010 has seen nursing staff struggle to meet ends meet,” said RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe.

“Balancing the NHS’ books on the shoulders of staff has been a political decision”

Theresa Fyffe

“Balancing the NHS’ books on the shoulders of staff has been a political decision – and it’s one that needs to change,” she said.

“Pay is a way in which governments can reflect the value which they place on nursing. But getting pay right will also help to tackle the significant challenges which Scotland is facing around the recruitment and retention of nursing staff,” she added.

Mary Ross-Davie, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for Scotland, said the commitment was “very good news for our hard-pressed and hard working midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff”.

“What is needed now is a fair pay award that makes up for the years of pay freezes and pay restraint in the NHS, which has seen midwives’ pay drop in value by over £6,000 since 2010,” she said.

”What is needed now is a fair pay award that makes up for the years of pay freezes and pay restraint”

Mary Ross-Davie

“Midwives are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. They are just asking to be treated fairly in exchange for their often selfless dedication and commitment to providing our mothers, babies and their families with the best possible care,” she added.

She said the RCM was now calling on other UK governments to follow suit.

This comes after a Labour move to lift the pay cap in England was defeated in the House of Commons earlier this week.

SNP MPs were among those to give their support to the amendment to the Queen’s speech but the pledge to lift the cap was defeated after 323 MPs voted against, compared with 309 votes in favour.

However, there are widely reported suggestions of a split within the Conservative party with prominent Tory MPs in favour of lifting the pay cap, which may prompt a change in policy.

Meanwhile Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething has written to UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for funds to be made available to the Welsh government in order to ensure a pay rise for NHS staff.

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