TEACHERS' pension contributions will be increased despite concerns it amounts to a pay cut.

MSPs voted to make the change against opposition from Labour politicians, who said the Scottish Government is passing on a UK Tory tax.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said he is being "forced" by Westminster.

Loading article content

"The UK Government would still impose its punitive financial penalties on Scotland if we did not deliver this additional income," he told Holyrood's Education Committee.

"They gave us a choice: force public servants to pay yet higher contributions or have less money to pay for the services across Scotland which they deliver."

The UK Government decided to increase contribution rates in public service pensions schemes by an average 3.2% of pay by April, with increases spread across three years.

The Scottish regulation, backed in a vote at the committee, means a teacher earning between £26,000 and £31,999 will have a contribution rate of 8.3%. The rate increases with larger salaries.

For the main grade of pay, teachers will be paying more than £1,000 of their salary towards pensions each year, the committee was told.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby opposed the Scottish Government's approach.

"Teachers are working flat out and under a great deal of pressure to prepare children for new exams and implement new highers," he said.

"They deserve far more support and recognition, and far better from the Government."

SNP members said the argument "falls" because it fails to put forward an alternative.

Committee convener Stewart Maxwell, an SNP MSP, said Labour would create a multimillion-pound hole in the budget.