TEACHERS have overwhelmingly rejected a controversial three per cent pay deal bringing strike action in the nation’s schools a step closer.

Members of three of Scotland’s teaching unions have voted against the current offer from the Scottish Government and councils.

READ MORE: Strikes loom as teachers urged to reject "derisory" pay offer 

Some 97 per cent of members of both the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association rejected the deal after record response rates.

And more than half the membership of the NASUWT said they would be prepared to take strike action in pursuit of a better deal.

Teaching unions are currently fighting for a ten per cent increase to rectify the impact of a decade of austerity.

READ MORE: Special school closes after damning inspection and financial problems 

However, councils and ministers argue the offer is the best and most affordable in the current economic climate.

In addition to the three per cent the deal also funds a restructuring of the pay scale which means most teachers would see their pay increase by between five per cent and 11 per cent.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, described the near unanimous rejection of the pay offer as a “landmark result”.

He said: “It is one of the strongest rejections of an offer in EIS history and one which is indicative of the current mood of Scotland’s teachers.

“They are increasingly agitated on pay, but angry also at excessive workload, mainstreaming on the cheap, and austerity driven cuts to resources.”

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said both the government and councils had “underestimated” teachers.

He said: “It is time for the government and councils to return to the negotiating table, treat teachers with respect and seek a meaningful settlement.

“They must be prepared to negotiate to avoid an escalation of the dispute and the potential for industrial action.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, added: “Our members are clearly angry and rightly so. Their response shows the divisive nature of this pay offer.”

However, Gail Macgregor, resources spokeswoman for council umbrella body Cosla, said teachers were highly valued, but local authorities were hamstrung by years of austerity in public finances.

She said: “The trade unions claim for a 10 per cent increase in one year cannot be met within the resources we currently have available and we have said that consistently throughout the pay negotiations.

“With support from our partners in the Scottish Government we have packaged an offer for teachers which includes a three per cent pay award and further measures to address recruitment and retention issues.

“Plans to organise a further ballot for strike action would disrupt schools and the education of children and young people. This is both unnecessary and unwarranted and will not result in an unaffordable 10 per cent pay increase.”

Officials will now use the vote to press for an improved offer with formal ballots on industrial action likely in January if they fail.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the deal was the best in the UK in 2018/19.

He said: "It is disappointing that teachers have rejected what I believe was a strong and fair offer. 

“All teachers on the main grade scale were offered at least a five per cent annual increase, with some receiving up to 11 per cent conjunction with their annual progression. 

“I am pleased there will be further talks and we will engage positively with the unions and with Cosla to seek to strike a pay deal.”

The EIS said over 98 per cent of members rejected the offer with turnout more than 74 per cent of its 48,000 members.

Ballots were issued to 6,487 members of the SSTA with 73 per cent responding and 97 per cent of these voting against the offer.

An opinion survey of teachers from the NASUWT union found 54 per cent of the 1,000 members who responded were willing to take industrial action with 48 per cent blaming the Scottish Government.