A new pay offer to teachers threatening strike action will be financed by the Scottish Government and not the education budget, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The EIS teaching union last week announced plans to ballot members for industrial action after rejecting the previous pay offer from the Scottish Government and council umbrella body Cosla.
The union argues pay has fallen 20% in real terms in the past decade and said a significant increase is needed to show teachers they are valued and to help boost staff recruitment and retention.
Asked about the dispute during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government has made an improved offer to the EIS and asked Cosla to also agree this.
“That proposal would mean that teachers would receive a minimum 9% increase between January 2018 and April 2019, with a further 3% in April 2020.
“That’s a clear indication of our commitment to recruit and retain teachers and it is the best offer in the public sector anywhere in the UK.
“I urge Cosla to adopt this proposal as a formal offer – a necessary step to resolving the dispute – and if it does so I also urge the teaching unions to consider this favourably so we can bring discussions to a positive conclusion.”
Asked where the funding would come from, she added: “Any additional budget allocation to fund a negotiated agreement will be met by the Scottish Government and this will be in addition to the enhanced local government settlement for the coming year, it will not come from the education budget.”
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott asked Ms Sturgeon what she believes is causing the teachers to consider strike action, to which she replied: “Teachers want to see a good pay rise.
“I believe they have been offered a good pay rise, I believe they were being offered a good pay rise but the enhanced offer underlines that fact.
“If this enhanced offer made by the Scottish Government is firstly agreed to by Cosla and then agreed to by the teaching unions, then it will mean that in April this year, teachers’ salaries will increase by 9% compared to what a teacher will get in their pay packet this month.
“It’s fair to teachers and it’s affordable – a key consideration for the Government – and it means we will resolve a dispute over pay, and that is absolutely in the interests of young people across the country.”
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said: “The offer that the First Minister refers to has not yet been made to teachers by local authority employers.
“Should this offer formally be made by local authorities, via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, the EIS will consult its members on that offer.
“In the event that the offer is not made, the EIS will instead proceed with its plans for a statutory strike ballot in pursuit of a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s teaching professionals.”