MSPs are set to get an automatic £15,000 pay rise thanks to a link with MPs’ salaries at Westminster – even though the “justification” for the increase does not apply in Scotland.
A report next month is expected to recommend that salaries for Westminster politicians should go up by between £10,000 and £20,000 a year to take account of cuts to their pensions.
MSPs’ pay rates are fixed at 87.5 per cent of MPs’ salaries and, under a system adopted more than a decade ago, any increase is applied automatically so the politicians don’t have to debate their own pay rises. But the pension reforms planned at Westminster do not affect Holyrood politicians, who have a completely separate pension scheme.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which has been looking at the Westminster pay and pensions, is expected to say MPs’ salaries should rise from the current £65,738 to around £75,000 or £85,000 a year.
If the rises went ahead, it could mean MSPs’ salaries being increased to anything between £66,847 and £75.597.
But today Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said the public would be “aghast” at such massive pay hikes for politicians.
He said: “At a time of austerity, when public sector workers are facing a real-terms pay cut, it is unthinkable that MPs or MSPs should receive the type of increase that is being mooted, particularly when there is no justification for it here given our different pension scheme. I don’t think the public would wear it.”
Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone said she would feel “very, very uncomfortable” about such a rise. She said: “As far as I’m aware there is no slack in the pay budget for the public sector but if there is, any rise should be given to low-paid public sector workers, many of whom are finding life increasingly difficult at this time of austerity and cuts. It should certainly not be given to MSPs.”
A two-year pay freeze for MSPs ended last month with a one per cent increase, taking their basic salary to £58,097. The First Minister’s salary is a further £84,160, taking his total to £142,257. Cabinet secretaries get a total of £101,757 and junior ministers £85,445.
IPSA is expected to say the new pay rates should come into effect until after the 2015 general election.
The Scottish Parliament confirmed that pay rises for MSPs would normally go through in line with the agreed 87.5 per cent formula, but suggested that in the event of an “extraordinary” increase, the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body could choose to intervene and break the link.
A parliament spokesman said: “It would be wrong to make assumptions about significant pay rises at Holyrood on the basis of an IPSA consultation exercise. Any substantial change to the MSP salary rate would be a matter for the SPCB and ultimately the Scottish Parliament as a whole.”