Nurses in every health board in Scotland vote to strike

Nurses in every health board in the country have voted in favour of strike action for the first time in their history.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) ballot closed this week, with the union announcing on Wednesday plans for the action.

It is not clear when action will take place, although the union said it expects strikes before the end of the year.

In Scotland, the RCN campaigned for a pay offer that was 5% above inflation, which currently stands at 10.1%.

The most recent offer from the Scottish Government was a flat £2,205 increase.

Humza Yousaf
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf made a flat rate offer of £2,205 to NHS staff last month (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Julie Lamberth, chairwoman of the RCN Scotland board, said: “NHS pay is a political choice and for Scottish Government ministers to suggest to nursing staff that fair pay should come at the expense of key services is insulting both to our members and the people of Scotland, who recognise that these services are already understaffed and rely on the goodwill of nursing staff to keep going.

“The Scottish Government needs to face up to the reality that their failure to focus on workforce planning and to properly value those working in health and social care over the last decade is the root cause of the staffing crisis we face. The result of our strike ballot is a wake-up call that must not be ignored.”

Responding to the announcement, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While I am naturally disappointed that the Royal College of Nursing has rejected this record pay offer and is now considering taking industrial action, I respect the mandate they have been given.

“For the lowest paid, our pay offer represents an above-inflation 11% pay rise, and it will ensure our nurses remain the best paid in the UK.

“I have always stressed that regular dialogue is essential to help avoid industrial action and I am committed to ongoing discussions with trade union partners.

“We have already had to reprofile £400 million of health and social care funding to help with both inflationary costs and to meet pay demands.

“We have no more money for a further pay offer. There is a moral obligation on the UK Government, as the architects of the cost crisis we are facing, to provide further funding to the Scottish Government so we can mitigate the pressures caused by sky-rocketing inflation, and to help ensure we can offer our public sector workers the best pay deal possible.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the strike announcement is the result of “incompetence on a historic scale” from the Scottish Government.

She said: “For 15 years, the SNP Government has failed to tackle the staffing crisis and now patient safety is being compromised and lives are being lost as a result.

“The blame for this industrial action rests squarely with the SNP Government who have failed our hardworking health workers, our patients and our NHS for a decade-and-a-half.

“Humza Yousaf has been deaf to the concerns of nurses and has failed to act to prevent this crisis. His incompetence is plumbing new depths.

“Nicola Sturgeon must do the right thing and sack this sorry excuse of a Health Secretary now.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the public will be “dismayed and deeply worried” about the announcement, adding: “With our NHS already on the brink of collapse and winter looming, I am deeply concerned for the health and welfare of patients over these strike days.

“It’s clear that lives could be on the line as a result of this action and the fault lies squarely at the feet of Humza Yousaf and the SNP.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said it is “absolutely unforgivable” that the Scottish Government has “allowed the situation to escalate to strike action”.