SCOTTISH political leaders have condemned Rishi Sunak’s plan to freeze public sector pay outside the NHS, saying it marks a return to Tory austerity.

Announcing a spending review amidst bleak forecasts resulting from the Covid lockdown, the Chancellor said wages would be frozen across most of the state sector next year.

However NHS staff will be exempt from the freeze, while the 2.1m public sector workers earning below £24,000 will still see an increase of at least £250 in 2021/22.

"While the Government is making the difficult decision to control public sector pay, the majority of public sector workers will see their pay increase next year,” he said. 

The Scottish Tories highlighted an extra £2.4bn coming to Holyrood under the Barnett formula next year, on top of £8.2bn this year in response to the Covid pandemic.

Mr Sundak said: “This Spending Review will help people in every corner of Scotland.

“It will provide billions of pounds to fight coronavirus, deliver the peoples’ priorities and drive the UK’s recovery.

“The Treasury is, has been, and will always be the Treasury for the whole of the United Kingdom. And this is a Spending Review for the whole of the United Kingdom.”

But Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the pay freeze was straight out of George Osborne’s “austerity playbook” following the financial crash a decade ago.

He said: “This is the same old Tory party, denying a well-deserved pay rise to every public sector employee, and not delivering the level of increase in the minimum wage that had been promised to hard pressed workers. 

“Instead of seeking to adequately increase the wages of workers' that would improve living standards and boost spending power to lead us out of a post pandemic recession, the Tories are hellbent on repeating the austerity of the last decade.”

He urged Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to oppose the move in the Commons. 

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Jackie Ballie said the pay freeze was “simply wrong”, adding: “This is not how you reward the key public sector workers who have kept Scotland safe throughout this pandemic.”

She also said it was vital the SNP Government now use its extra funding to strengthen the NHS and protect businesses and jobs. 

She said: “If we are to recover from this pandemic, we must have a laser-focus on strengthening our NHS and delivering jobs for people all across Scotland. 

“There is no point in the SNP hiding funds away for a rainy day when we are in the teeth of an economic deluge.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie savaged Mr Sunak over the pay freeze.

He said: “The Chancellor wants to lay the cost of the pandemic on the shoulders of those who have suffered the most from it, and to punish those who have worked on the front line getting us through it. 

“Even the lowest earners will receive a pittance, and most will see their incomes cut in real terms.

"The Chancellor’s attempt to justify this by pointing to poverty pay in the private sector, while still refusing to mandate a real Living Wage, is indefensible.

“Just when we have relied on public services more than ever, the Tories want to cut them again. That is unspeakably cruel and economically illiterate, but the Tories have form on this. 

“It will be down to the Scottish Government to produce a budget which makes creative use of our devolved powers to address the ways in which the pandemic has worsened inequality.” 

The Scottish Tories welcomed other measures in the spending review about Scotland.

The Chancellor's £2.4bn for the Scottish Government, including £1.3bn specifically to tackle Covid, takes total UK funds going to Holyrood for Covid to £9.5bn. 

Mr Sunak also announced the acceleration of four City and Growth Deals across Scotland, including Tay Cities.

Playing up the Union, Mr Ross said the measures showed the “deep pockets of the UK Government are best placed to support Scottish jobs, schools and hospitals”.

He said would Scots will also benefit from a £5bn investment in the UK Gigabit Programme and the Shared Rural Network to extend 4G mobile coverage to 95% of the UK.

Mr Ross said: “It’s now a fact that Rishi Sunak and the UK Government have gone further than any government in peacetime history to protect jobs and support public services.

“The Scottish Conservatives argued for accelerated City and Growth deals to invest more quickly in Scottish communities, and we’re delighted to see that has been delivered alongside a bumper £2.4 billion boost in Barnett Consequentials.

“There’s huge positives for rural communities across Scotland with a substantial investment to improve broadband, and welcome news that Scottish farmers and fisheries will benefit from even more financial backing.

“The ongoing commitments to a Freeport in Scotland and an underwater engineering hub in Aberdeen are encouraging, although the Scottish Conservatives will continue to argue for more support to protect jobs in the north east of Scotland and we will be seeking further assurances to help secure the industry’s future for decades, not only years.

“The SNP’s Barnett Consequential funding disputes have no substance, they’re just another nationalist grievance.”

SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said the Tories were “threatening Scotland's recovery” by slashing pay for millions.

She said: "Yet again, Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster. 

“This failure will make the growing Tory unemployment crisis even worse, squeeze living standards even further, and risk a protracted downturn by starving the economy of funds. It shows, yet again, that Westminster cannot be trusted to act in Scotland's interests.

"The fact that the Tories are wasting millions on a Brexit festival while slashing public sector pay, and cutting support for the world's poorest, tells you everything you need to know about this government's twisted priorities. Scotland has a right to determine our own future so we can shake off this broken Westminster system and build a fairer country with independence."

Mhoraig Green of Citizens Advice Scotland said she was disappointed Mr Sunak did not say if the Covid-related £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit would continue past March.

She said: “Cutting this support could plunge many people into an income crisis.  

“While our shell-shocked economy is still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and unemployment is predicted to increase, strengthening our social security safety net and in turn our overall economy – rather than weakening it through continued uncertainty – should be the priority of government.”