Scottish Government to end 1% pay cap from April

New policy will base increases on cost of living while keeping public spending budgets in balance, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon's decision comes after reports that Theresa May plans to lift the cap. Credit: Scottish Parliament

By Richard Johnstone

06 Sep 2017

The Scottish Government has confirmed plans to end the current 1% pay cap for public sector workers, including civil servants, for the 2018-19 financial year.

Setting out the administration’s programme for the year ahead, first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the current limit, which has been in place alongside a similar policy for Whitehall since 2012, would end.

The decision by the Scottish Government comes after reports claiming that prime minister Theresa May was planning to lift the cap for Whitehall departments and other public servants in England. Trade unions have said that the Westminster government must now act.


Addressing the Holyrood parliament yesterday, Sturgeon said the cap had never been desirable, but it had been “necessary to protect jobs and services” given the squeeze on Scottish Government resources.

However, she confirmed the plan to end the cap, first signalled in May, as rising inflation had made its continuation “not sustainable”.

“Our nurses, teachers, police officers and firefighters deserve a fairer deal for the future. Indeed, the need to recruit the staff that our public services depend on also demands a new approach,” she said.

“We will therefore aim to secure pay rises from next year that are affordable, but which also reflect the real life circumstances our public servants face and the contribution our public services make to the overall prosperity of our country.”

Under the plans released today, the cap will be replaced by a new pay policy that takes account of the cost of living as well as continuing to protect the lowest paid while maintaining public sector budgets, as the Scottish Government is unable to borrow for day-to-day revenue spending.

“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,” the Programme for Government stated.

The Prospect trade union, which represents engineers, scientists, managers and specialists across the civil service, said that the decision would increase pressure on prime minister Theresa May to end the pay cap in England.

“Scottish ministers have recognised the current pay cap is unsustainable, damaging to recruitment and fails to mark the important contribution public sector workers make,” Garry Graham, the union’s deputy general secretary, said.

“This clear position contrasts the leaks, counter briefings and confusion we have seen from Westminster. The UK government must act now and lift the cap.”

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