NICOLA Sturgeon has agreed to return part of her salary after MSPs voted for a pay rise that would have made her the highest-paid politician in the UK.


MSPs awarded themselves a 0.7 per cent rise, taking the First Minister's salary to £144,687 - a pay packet bigger than the Prime Minister's and overtaking the £143,911 earned by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman later said she would only accept £135,605, maintaining Alex Salmond's voluntary pledge to freeze his salary at its 2008/9 level.

The difference will be returned to a general Scottish Government account.

It is understood cabinet colleagues have also agreed to continue a voluntary pay freeze and will hand back a portion of the £103,495 they are entitled to from next month.

Ms Sturgeon's salary compares with £142,500 earned by Prime Minister David Cameron and £134,722 paid to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones.

MSPs who are not ministers will take a pay rise of £411 as their basic salary jumps to £59,089 from next month.

The increase came as MSPs voted to de-couple their pay scales from Westminster salaries.

Since 1999, MSPs have been entitled to 87.5 per cent of an MP's salary but from April, their pay will rise in line with public sector workers in Scotland.

The decision follows possible changes to pay at Westminster.

The body that sets MPs' pay, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), has recommended a substantial increase that would take the basic salary for a backbencher to £74,000, up from £67,060 at present.

The proposed change, designed to reflect a new, less generous expenses regime and reduced pension for MPs, will be considered after May's General Election.

If agreed, it will be backdated to the date of the election. MPs' pay would rise in line with average earnings thereafter.

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: "This is about breaking a link with Westminster.

"MSPs on all sides have agreed it would be unacceptable to take a huge pay rise."

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: "When IPSA announced its intention in December 2013 to introduce a significant increase in MP salaries at Westminster with effect from May 2015, the SPCB (parliament's governing corporate body) took the view that it would be 'unthinkable that a significant pay rise for MSPs could be agreed, particularly in the current economic climate'.

"The new mechanism will put future increases in MSPs pay on an equal footing with those in the public sector in Scotland."

However a spokesman for low tax campaign group Taxpayer Scotland said: "At a time when the public finances are so pressed, it's deeply troubling to see MSPs taking home a pay rise."

The Prime Minister's salary was cut from £198,000 to £150,000 during Gordon Brown's tenure at No 10.

Mr Cameron announced a further five per cent cut shortly after taking power.

Any changes to UK ministerial salaries will be decided after the General Election.

On paper, former First Minister Alex Salmond overtook Mr Cameron's salary in April last year, when his pay packet rose to £143,680.

MSPs also agreed to delay a proposed ban on using their parliamentary allowances to employ close family members until after next year's Holyrood election.