Nicola Sturgeon has announced NHS staff in Scotland will get a 3% pay rise in a move which will see them paid more than their English counterparts.
The First Minister has piled pressure on Theresa May to act on NHS pay as she unveiled the Scottish Government’s new policy at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.
It means vital frontline staff such as nurses, porters, midwives, allied health professionals, therapists, support staff and administrators earning up to £80,000 will see a significant boost to their annual pay packet.
Those earning £80,000 and over, meanwhile, will be handed a flat rate increase of £1,600.
Compared to staff in NHS England:
Experienced porters will get £500 more
Healthcare assistants will get £600 more
Auxiliary nurses with a year’s experience would get £800 more
Nurses with five years’ experience will get £400 more
Paramedics will get over £450 more
Advanced nurse practitioners will get £250 more
The stunning announcement hands May a dilemma over NHS pay negotiations as the 70th anniversary of the NHS approaches on July 5.
Sturgeon told the crowd in Aberdeen: “We know that for NHS staff, and all those who work in our public services, the last few years of pay restraint have been tough.”
She said the pay rises will be in workers’ wage packets next month, and added: “That means the vast majority of our frontline NHS staff will be paid, not just the same as in NHS England this year, but more.”
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the Prime Minister was prepared to end the austerity-era 1% pay cap and would announce a “significant” funding settlement for the NHS next month.
He said: “She is unbelievably committed. You should not underestimate how committed she is to the NHS. So she is absolutely 100% behind getting this right.
“I’ve been making the NHS’s case that we need significant and sustainable funding increases to meet the demographic challenges we face, and the Prime Minister completely appreciates that.”
As part of her conference speech, the First Minister also announced a package of support for students.
The repayment threshold for student loans will be raised to £25,000 in Scotland from April 2021, and the maximum repayment period for student loans will be lowered from 35 to 30 years.
The bursary for students who have been in care that are in further and higher education will also be increased to £8,100, bringing it in line with the living wage.
Sturgeon gave no details of when a second Scottish independence referendum could be held, however.
The party’s newly-elected new deputy leader Keith Brown said earlier during the conference that a second poll is “undoubtedly ahead”.
The SNP maintains the Scottish government has a mandate to call a referendum on independence before 2021 but that much depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
But Sturgeon told the conference: “As we wait for the fog of Brexit to clear, our opportunity - indeed, our responsibility - is this.
“Not just to focus on the ‘when’ of independence. But to use our energy and passion to persuade those who still ask ‘why?’
“Right now, that is the more important task.”