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- 5th First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party
Nicola Sturgeon was only able to hand NHS workers a minimum four per cent pay rise in Scotland thanks to the billions of pounds she has been given by the UK Treasury during the pandemic, the Tories have said.
Only hours before the election 'purdah' period started, SNP ministers that 154,000 staff would see their pay increase by more than £1,000, while those on the highest salaries would receive an extra £800.
Ms Sturgeon contrasted the settlement, backdated to December, with the one per cent rise offered to NHS workers in England and urged voters to elect an SNP government that "do more than clap for the people who look after us."
She said her government had to work hard to find the estimated £135 million annual cost of the rise and reiterated her call for another independence referendum saying the the Covid recovery must be "made in Scotland".
🏥 Our NHS staff deserve more than applause - 1% is not enough. That's why the SNP @ScotGov have offered at least a 4% pay rise to over 154,000 staff.
🤝 Frontline nurses see an average increase of £1200.
🗳 #BothVotesSNP on May 6 to put Scotland’s recovery in Scotland’s hands. pic.twitter.com/aA3FgDeu5w
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 25, 2021
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said: "I think many people understandably, and I fully agree with this, want to recognise outstanding commitment and dedication of our NHS staff over the last 12 months.
"They have gone above and beyond and everyone is grateful for what they've done to save lives during this pandemic.
"But the offer from the Scottish Government was only possible because of the additional £13.3 billion support from the UK Government to the Scottish Government over the last year and others will look at the timing of that announcement issued just hours before the purdah period at the start of this election campaign."
He said it was a decision for the UK Government whether to match the offer in England and to make a recommendation to the independent panel that determines NHS pay.
But Ms Sturgeon said: "Politics is about choices, and the SNP chooses to back our NHS. In this election we can build a country fit for the heroes who have kept us going every day through the pandemic."
She added: "The Tories’ miserly one per cent. pay offer south of the border shows that they have the wrong priorities - people will no doubt wonder how they can find the money to massively increase their stockpile of nuclear weapons or build a bridge to Northern Ireland but refuse to find the money to properly reward those who were at the frontline of the pandemic."
Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Health Secretary, said the rise of up to 5.4 per cent was the largest since devolution started in 1999. It is significantly higher than the pay offer made to other public sector workers.
The announcement followed negotiations between the Scottish Government, NHS employers and unions, who will now consult their members on the offer.
The rise is in addition to a one-off £500 thank you payment for NHS workers unveiled by Ms Sturgeon in November.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's health spokesman, welcomed the new pay offer but said it "fails to consider our social care workers who have been offered pennies in comparison."
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats announced plans to introduce a minimum £30,000 starting salary for teachers to help attract the best graduates.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, also called for more in-class support to help pupils reach their potential, a guaranteed job for every teacher for smaller class sizes and a a new "premium" pay supplement to attract teachers to disadvantaged areas.