Sturgeon: Scottish Government action on pay is hindered by budget limitations

Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of her Government’s budget limitations as industrial unrest grows amid ongoing pay disputes.

Scotland’s First Minister said there is a “real case” for civic mobilisation as she urged the UK Government to make a “large scale intervention” on the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking at her third guest appearance at Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, she said she would love to be able to offer pay rises in line with inflation.

She was asked by an NHS worker in the audience whether she would support a potential healthcare strike.

NHS Scotland staff, including nurses and midwives, have said they are prepared to take industrial action after rejecting a 5% pay offer from the Scottish Government.

Unions will ballot their members on a potential strike in October.

Ms Sturgeon said she “totally understands why workers are campaigning and seeking to negotiate deals” that reflect the rise in inflation.

But she added: “Equally, as First Minister, I’ve got to balance our budget every year and I literally have to do that because we don’t have the borrowing powers that the Chancellor had and the Treasury, and that is difficult.

“I would love to be able to offer pay rises that were in line with inflation. I just can’t do that within our budget.

“So we’re trying to be as fair as we can within those constraints. These negotiations are ongoing and we will bust a gut to try and avoid industrial action in our health service and everywhere else but I don’t pretend these are easy times for anybody.”

Waste workers have already started industrial action as rubbish piles up in Edinburgh and staff from 13 other local authorities are set to join the dispute.

Ms Sturgeon also said there was a “real case” for civic mobilisation as she called for a “large scale intervention” into the cost-of-living crisis.

She has previously urged the UK Government to freeze planned energy price hikes to avoid “destitution” across the country.

She told the Fringe audience: “People are going to be utterly swamped by this and lives will be lost.

“The big levers that can be pulled here, unfortunately – and I wish it were different – do not lie with us. They lie with whoever is the incoming prime minister.

“It will be unconscionable if there is not that significant action taken.”

She added: “I think as a country we have got to try and come together to demand that those who do have the powers to grow the overall resource available, take those decisions.

“I think there is a real case for that kind of democratic civic mobilisation of opinion right now. It is really, really needed.”

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