The Crown Office has offered prosecutors a £5.6 million pay deal in a bid to avoid “damaging” strike action as the country’s courts prepare to reopen after another national lockdown.

The offer comes after a long-running dispute over significant pay disparities between lawyers within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and their counterparts in the Scottish Government.

If agreed, the three year deal will see COPFS staff undergo a job evaluation and restructuring exercise, with the promise of ensuring pay parity in the future.

The Scottish Government has committed additional funding to pay for the salary increases.

The FDA trade union will now ballot its members on the deal, recommending that the procurators fiscal accept the offer.

FDA national officer Allan Sampson welcomed the move to address the long-running pay gap.

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He said: “The FDA is delighted to reach an agreement with COPFS on proposals for addressing our long-running pay dispute.

“The unfair gap between the pay of prosecutors and other lawyers in the public sector creates risks in relation to recruitment, retention and, ultimately, the administration of justice in Scotland.

“This offer, subject to the agreement of our members, will avert the need for very damaging industrial action. As well as delivering a pay rise to COPFS staff now, it also commits to pay parity for the future, a key demand of our campaign.

“There remains much work to do, but with the funding and agreement in place, the FDA looks forward to working with COPFS to confirm a pay system which is fit for purpose, appropriately rewarding all staff.”

In December last year, The Herald revealed that prosecutors had voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a consultative ballot which saw 95% of those asked back the move.

A formal ballot was due to take place this month and could have resulted in around 500 procurators fiscal walking out at a crucial time for the country’s justice system.

The courts were already facing a backlog of around 40,000 cases following the first lockdown last year and were just beginning to run more trials when many were forced to close again at the start of the year.

Since January, only the most serious cases have been heard in the criminal courts, with the majority of summary trials in the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts adjourned as a result of the covid-19 restrictions.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has said that plans are now in place for an increase in business again, with Sheriff Court cases due to restart on April 19 and Justice of the Peace hearings on June 7.

Opposition politicians had raised concerns that strike action could have caused further delays for victims of crime.

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The Herald understands that the pay deal could see the most junior prosecutors receive an £8,000 increase in salary in April next year.

This would bring them into line with colleagues on a similar scale within the Scottish Government.

A Crown Office spokesperson said: “Scotland’s prosecution service values its people and the vital contribution they make to keeping our communities safe from crime.

"Following constructive engagement between the Scottish Government, trade unions and COPFS, the Scottish Government has now committed additional funding to address pay parity concerns.”