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Sturgeon confirms SNP commitment to drop 1% cap on NHS staff pay rises from next year

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The Scottish government has confirmed its commitment to lifting the 1% cap no pay rises for nursing and midwifery staff, and to introducing safe staff legislation for the health service.

The commitment to remove the cap for public sector workers in Scotland forms part of the policy programme for the Scottish government during 2017-18, which was published yesterday.

It backs up a statement in June from finance secretary Derek Mackay that the Scottish National Party government was “committed to lifting the pay cap”.

The programme document – titled A Nation With Ambition – said the Scottish government would remove the 1% pay rise cap from 2018-19.

In addition, it said future pay policy would “take account of the cost of living, continue to protect the lowest paid and ensure public sector budgets remain in balance”.

The government said its objective was to “secure” affordable pay rises that recognises the valuable contribution of the public sector workforce.

“We will remove the 1% pay cap from 2018-19”

Scottish government

In her introduction to the programme, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It commits to lifting the public sector pay cap – vital to living standards and our ability to recruit staff for our precious public services.”

As well as pay, the document said the government was committed to introducing a Safe Staffing Bill, in order to “enshrine safe NHS staffing in law, starting with nursing and midwifery”.

In April, the Scottish government launched a consultation on plans to introduce nursing and midwifery safe staffing legislation. It followed a commitment to do so made by Ms Sturgeon at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress in 2016.

It follows the introduction of staffing laws in Wales last year, which will come into force on NHS adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards in 2018.

Other health policy pledges in the government programme for 2018-19 including ensuring at least a “real terms” increase in the frontline NHS budget, as part of a commitment to increase health resource funding by £2bn over the life of this parliament.

In addition, it would invest an increasing proportion of the budget in primary, community, mental health and social care services, in order to “support the shift in the balance of care that is required”.

Meanwhile, it would also take forward its new Mental Health Strategy and implement the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan, said the document.

RCN Congress 2016

Nicola Sturgeon at RCN congress in 2016

Regarding remuneration, the document stated: “We have always sought to offer a distinctive pay policy – one that is fair, supports those on the lowest incomes and protects jobs and services while delivering value for money.

“We were the first government to pay the living wage to public sector employees and, within the confines of recent austerity, we have been able to provide higher increases for those on lower salaries,” it noted.

It added: “We recognise the valuable contribution public sector employees make, working hard to ensure the effective delivery of services at a time when budgets are being squeezed. Furthermore, we are acutely aware of the impact that rising inflation and social security cuts are having on working households.

“We will remove the 1% pay cap from 2018-19,” it said. “Future pay policy will take account of the cost of living, continue to protect the lowest paid and ensure public sector budgets remain in balance. We aim for pay rises that are affordable, reflect the real life circumstances people face and recognise the invaluable contribution of the public sector workforce.”

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