Crown Office prosecutors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action following a long-running dispute over pay.

A consultative ballot by the FDA trade union saw 95% of those asked vote in favour of the action, which could see around 500 procurators fiscal walking out in early Spring.

It comes as the country’s court service struggles to recover following a shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis, with the legal system facing a large backlog of cases.

The dispute – which will now proceed to a statutory ballot in the New Year – centres on lawyers with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) being paid less than their counterparts within the Scottish Government.

The union claims a solicitor starting with COPFS will be paid around £15,000 less than those starting in a similar position with the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government said it was in ongoing dialogue with COPFS and the trade unions, as Allan Sampson, FDA Scotland national organiser, called on ministers to make funds available to ensure fairness.

He said: “With 95% of members voting in favour of industrial action, the union has a clear mandate to progress the campaign.

“Ministers should be under no illusion that sympathetic words are enough.

“The government’s budget will be announced on 28th January and pay parity for COPFS must be part of that budget.

“Our ballot result demonstrates that if they fail again to provide sufficient funds to treat members fairly, there will inevitably be consequences.

“If Scottish ministers properly value the work of the prosecution service and believe their work is of equal value to that carried out in Scottish Government, they should be paid the same.

“It goes to the very heart of our campaign message: ‘Equal Value Equal Worth’.”

Scotland’s court service is facing a backlog of almost 40,000 cases following a shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis, and experts estimate that it could take up to a decade to clear.

Opposition politicians have previously raised concerns that the strike action could cause further delays for victims of crime and called on the Scottish Government to take action to resolve the dispute.

Scottish Labour said the court system can “ill afford” to lose lawyers to strike action “at this crucial time”.

Party justice spokesperson Rhoda Grants said: “It is unfortunate that the pay dispute has reached this stage. The Scottish justice system and its lawyers have been under immense strain in the past months, with the court case backlog increasing week on week.

“We urge the Scottish Government to work together with the FDA Union to find a solution urgently.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr added: “The SNP is now presiding over a situation where lawyers are furious and feel undervalued, and victims are at risk of having justice further delayed.

“Ministers need to get round the table with the COPFS and sort this out now.”

A COPFS spokeswoman said: “COPFS has an ongoing and constructive dialogue with unions and staff over pay and benefits, informed by the available budget.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We greatly value the role the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) plays in Scotland’s criminal justice system.

“Staff salaries are a matter for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The Scottish Government is in on-going dialogue with COPFS and trade unions regarding the pay matters in question, as we develop the 2021-22 Public Sector Pay Policy to be finalised alongside the Scottish Budget on 28 January.”