STRIKE action in Scottish schools has come a step closer after pay talks stalled.

Teaching unions said ballots for industrial action were now "likely" after the Scottish Government and council umbrella body Cosla refused to improve the latest offer.

Teachers are currently being offered a three per cent pay increase which has been described as "derisory" by unions.

In addition, the Scottish Government is offering an extra £25 million to fund a wider shake-up of pay structures which would mean more money for teachers at the top and bottom end of the scale.

However, teaching unions are campaigning for a ten per cent increase for all staff, arguing pay has been eroded significantly over the past decade.

They also want improvements to salary scales to make teaching more attractive, but argue this should be in addition to a significant increase for all teachers.

A spokesman for the teachers’ side of the negotiations - which includes the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association - said: "We are extremely disappointed that both the Scottish Government and Cosla have rejected the proposals put to them by the teachers’ side, which would have kept negotiations going, and have opted instead to end discussions.

"In a week when the Scottish Government found the money to pay upfront a 6.5 per cent offer to Scottish police officers, it now claims to be unable to find any additional money for teachers."

The statement said teaching unions would now consider the outcome of today’s talks "with member ballots being likely".

The salaries committee of the EIS, which has already unanimously rejected the offer, is set to hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss the consultative ballot of members.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "It is shameful that Scottish ministers have walked away from the negotiating table in this manner.

"The EIS, and other unions, had offered constructive proposals for Government and Cosla to consider, but in rejecting them out of hand, ministers have effectively dismissed the concerns of Scottish teachers.

“The prospect of industrial unrest in Scotland’s schools has moved a significant step closer as a result of the government’s abandonment of talks.”

Gail Macgregor, resources spokesowman for Cosla, said councils had "dug deep" to offer three per cent for the entire local government workforce at a cost of £350m.

She said: "This offer matches or betters other offers in the public sector in Scotland, so to say I’m disappointed that it has been rejected is an understatement.

“The teachers unions claim for 10 per cent a single year cannot be achieved and is entirely unaffordable and they have been told this since the offer was submitted at the start of the year. 

“Balloting for a mandate for industrial action will do no one any good as there is nothing further we can add to the current offer and will only disrupt the education of children."

In a direct message to teachers, Ms Macgregor said the deal was fair because it matched the offer to local authority colleagues such as school administrators, cooks and janitors.

She added: "We see all of you as equally valuable and equally essential to the good order and running of the school and the education of our children and young people. I would urge you to accept the deal on offer.”

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the Government had worked with Cosla to put in place the best pay deal possible for 2018/19.

He added: "This includes the Scottish Government contributing an additional £35m for teachers' pay.

"This will result in all teachers on the main grade scale receiving at least a five per cent increase, with some teachers receiving up to 11 per cent one year in conjunction with annual progression.

"The offer matches or betters other offers in the public sector in Scotland, for example 6.5 per cent for police officers over 31 months.

"We firmly believe that it is generous and fair and would encourage teachers to consider it favourably."