HOLYROOD politicians are to receive their highest annual pay rise in years, leading to calls for a cap in salary increases for public sector workers to be scrapped.

From April next year, MSPs will enjoy a wage boost of 2.7 per cent, meaning that a backbencher in the Scottish Parliament will earn more than £60,000 for the first time while Nicola Sturgeon will see her entitlement increase by almost £4,000 to £148,595 a year.

The rise comes after Holyrood voted to end a previous system that saw salaries linked to those of MPs in Westminster and instead based on an annual survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics.

Provisional findings report that public sector pay packets increased by almost three per cent - meaning MSPs will see their salaries go up by the same proportion - despite an ongoing salary cap imposed by the Scottish Government that has seen most civil servants and NHS workers wage increases limited to just one per cent.

A spokesman for the First Minister said that Ms Sturgeon would refuse the pay boost, saying that the system that has seen ministers hand back cash voluntarily since 2009 would continue.

He added: "At a time when many ordinary people are continuing to feel a tight financial squeeze, it is the right thing to do."

Less senior politicians are likely to face calls to donate their generous increases to charity as the SNP contingent at Westminster pledged to do after the pay packets of MPs controversially went up by 10 per cent.

Lynne Henderson, national officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union, questioned whether Finance Secretary John Swinney would offer its members a similar increase in his upcoming budget.

She said: "I am sure that no-one doubts that MSPs are as deserving of a pay increase as anyone else but I hope that Mr Swinney will reflect on his pay policy of recent years and conclude that his own civil servants also deserve more than another 12 months of a one per cent cap on pay.

"PCS members working to deliver public services in every constituency will be watching with interest to see if the Scottish budget offers a comparable pay increase for them."

The 2.7 per cent pay rise, which will see the next Presiding Officer take home £106,290 and normal MSPs earn £60,685, is based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) for the average of full-time public sector workers in Scotland.

According to ASHE, both public and private sector pay in Scotland grew quickly over the 12 months to November. This year, when the new system was introduced, MSPs received a 0.7 per cent increase. They received just a one per cent rise in the two previous years, with pay frozen the year before that.

The Scottish Parliament has requested a budget of £96.7 million for 2016/17, a rise of 7.6 per cent. The salary increase for MSPs, along with a more generous system that allows them to hire an extra staff member, new powers for the parliament and May's election, are among the factors behind the increased costs.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: "The Scottish Parliament agreed in March 2015 to break the pay link with Westminster and to put future increases for MSPs pay on an equal footing with those in the public sector in Scotland.

"The move ensured that MSPs do not vote on their own pay and automatically links increases to the annual average of full-time public sector workers in Scotland."

The Herald: