United Kingdom

Pressure on Westminster as Scottish MPs reject 'wholly inappropriate' pay rise during the pandemic

Westminster MPs faced mounting pressure to waive a planned pay rise today after their Scottish counterparts rejected a 'wholly inappropriate' plan to increase their salaries during the pandemic.

Salary increases for MSPs are linked to public sector pay and they would have been in line for a 5.1 per cent rise on their £64,470 pay in 2021.

But Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced this morning that Holyrood's cross-party corporate body had rejected the latest increase and called for ministerial salaries to be frozen.

In a letter to MSPs this morning, Mr Macintosh wrote: 'In the midst of a public health crisis with such devastating economic consequences and hardship for so many households, the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) unanimously agreed yesterday that it would be wholly inappropriate for the ASHE (annual survey of hours and earnings) index to be applied to MSP and ministerial salaries next year.' 

It raises pressure on MPs in Westminster to do the same with a planned 4.1 per cent raise worth £3,000 that would take their pay to around £85,000 from April.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced this morning that Holyrood's cross-party corporate body had rejected the latest increase and called for ministerial salaries to be frozen

MPs handed responsibility for setting their salaries to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the wake of the credit crunch. Pictured, the Commons during PMQs last week

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is understood to be looking at options including a temporarily freeze or a smaller increase, following an outcry from politicians across parties including Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer.

The SPCB, chaired by the Presiding Officer, unanimously agreed to ask for salaries to be frozen in their budget bid to the Finance and Constitution Committee.

Mr Macintosh added: 'These are exceptional circumstances and no other decision would have been appropriate or welcome at this time - either inside or out-with Parliament.

'Now, more than ever, is a time for political leadership where our own salaries are concerned.'

Deputy First Minister John Swinney welcomed the plan, and said: 'I think it's absolutely the right decision to have taken and I think it's correct in these circumstances.

'The pay of ministers has been frozen at 2008-09 levels, so that's been frozen for some considerable time, but I unreservedly welcome the decision that Parliament's taken today.'

Westminster MPs handed responsibility for setting their salaries to Ipsa in the wake of the credit crunch.

But Downing Street waded into the row last month amid concerns at the idea of politicians getting more money while the wider public sector faces a freeze and coronavirus hammers the economy.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also voiced opposition, telling LBC radio: 'We shouldn't have it.'

And more than 50 Conservative MPs have called on Ipsa's interim chairman Richard Lloyd to implement a freeze.

They argued that with constituents facing financial uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, they should help to 'shoulder the burden'.

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