NICOLA Sturgeon has been urged to apologise after she appeared to dismiss the pay concerns of a serving police officer by branding them “quite disgraceful”.

The First Minister insisted officers in Scotland have been handed the best pay rise of any police force in the UK.

It came after Scottish Tory MSP Graham Simpson quoted a letter he had received from an officer in East Kilbride, following teachers being offered a pay increase worth 13.5 per cent.

Raising the correspondence at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Simpson said: “[He] wrote this: 'Whilst I appreciate that teachers have worked hard and do deserve a pay rise, why is it that NHS staff were given 9% and police officers only 6.5%?'

"I remind members that those are the words of a serving police officer. He went on to ask: 'Does the Scottish Government place the value of Police Officers as only half that of School Teachers?

"'Is it that the Government know that because Police Officers cannot strike or take any real industrial action that they are an easy target?'

"What would the First Minister say to that police officer and thousands of others?"

Ms Sturgeon responded: “Parts of those comments were quite disgraceful. I value all public sector workers, and I thank them for the work that they do.

“The police pay award is the best award for police officers anywhere in the United Kingdom. The Scottish Police Federation described it as the best pay award in 20 years.

“If the member thinks that 6.5% is not good enough — and I would love to pay all our public sector workers even more than we are — I wonder what he makes of the 2% that has been awarded to police officers in England by his Tory colleagues in the Westminster Government.”

Ms Sturgeon said many NHS workers are paid more than in England “because of the value we attach to the work that they do”, while teachers had now been offered “an exceptionally good pay deal”.

She added: "I value all public sector workers. If people look at any group of public sector workers, they will find that the value that is attached to them by the Scottish Government is much greater than the value that is attached to their counterparts in England by the Tory Government at Westminster.”

Writing on Twitter afterwards, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf branded it a "ludicrous question from Tory MSP Graham Simpson".

A spokesman for the First Minister later insisted her “disgraceful” comment was aimed at Mr Simpson, and not the officer who had raised the concerns – despite the Tory MSP simply quoting from a letter he had received.

Asked if Ms Sturgeon misspoke, the spokesman said: “No. Her comments were directed at Graham Simpson.”

Mr Simpson said the First Minister “should be taking the concerns of a serving police officer extremely seriously”.

He said: “Instead, in front of Scotland’s parliament, she branded him a disgrace. It’s no wonder officers are losing faith in this SNP government with that kind of attitude.

“These brave and hardworking police officers should not be discriminated against because they don’t threaten to go on strike.

"The First Minister needs to apologise for being so dismissive of his concerns.”

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon launched a scathing attack on Scottish Secretary David Mundell after he abstained on a Westminster vote ruling out a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.

The Prime Minister had ordered Tory MPs to vote against the motion on Wednesday, but Mr Mundell, who opposes no-deal, was one of four cabinet ministers to rebel by abstaining. Only one Scottish Tory, Paul Masterton, voted for the motion and against the Government.

Speaking at FMQs, Ms Sturgeon said: "I think it is to his credit that Paul Masterton did the right thing last night.

"The Secretary of State for Scotland can't even manage to rebel properly. He pathetically opted for an abstention to save his own job rather than properly standing up for this country, and that I think is a disgrace."

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard insisted Mrs May's deal must not be brought back for a third vote in the Commons.

He added: "Last week in this Parliament [Holyrood], all parties voted to reject no deal in all circumstances – with the sole exception of the Tories.

"What does it say about the Tories in here that every single one of them without exception voted for something that neither the Secretary of State for Scotland nor Jackson Carlaw's own MP [Mr Masterton] could vote for last night?"