HEALTH Secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted that he has no more cash to increase NHS pay deals in the face of a looming wave of industrial action this winter.

Mr Yousaf said that written requests for extra funds made to the UK Government by himself and his Welsh counterpart had been rejected.

It comes after the GMB trade union announced on Saturday that ambulance service workers will take part in a 26-hour walkout from 6am on November 28 after voting against the Scottish Government's latest pay offer which would have seen eligible NHS staff given a £2,205 flat rate uplift in salary, backdated to April.

The deal has already been rejected by other staff groups, including nurses, midwives and physiotherapists, with trade unions describing the offer as "divisive" and saying that it fell short of the above inflation payments being sought.

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In some cases, better remunerated professionals would have been worse off on the £2,205 flat rate than they would have been from the Government's initial five per cent offer set out in the summer.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf said the trade unions' demands were "not unreasonable" but stressed that the Scottish Government "[doesn't] have more money for pay deals".

He said he was "disappointed" ambulance workers had voted for industrial action, and remained "committed to ongoing discussions" to avoid strikes.

He added: "I don't for a minute think that strikes are inevitable.

"We will be getting back round the table, not just with the [Royal College of Nursing], but with the other health trade unions.

"I believe trade unions also think that a strike is not inevitable. We will have to negotiate.

"We can look at the redistribution of that £480 million but the UK government have got a moral obligation to give us more money."

In a joint letter to UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay ahead of the autumn statement, Mr Yousaf and Eluned Morgan - the Welsh Government's health secretary - made a plea for increased funding for the NHS and devolved governments "primarily to pay our hard-working NHS staff a fair pay rise in the face of the cost-of-living crisis this winter, and avoid what could be catastrophic industrial action in the NHS".

A UK Government spokesman said it was already investing "record amounts in health and social care", adding: "We are hugely grateful for the hard work of NHS staff, including nurses, and that's why we accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full and have given over one million NHS workers in England a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year.

"This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider Government support with the cost of living."

If the GMB's industrial action goes ahead, it will be the ambulance service's first strike in decades.

Unite, which also represents SAS workers, has already announced its members will work to rule from November 25.

GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said: "Staff in the Scottish Ambulance Service have worked throughout the depths of the pandemic on the frontline of our public services, all the while dealing with an understaffing crisis and now a cost-of-living crisis this winter.

"These strikes are a direct response to the Scottish Government who have failed to give key, frontline workers the pay rise that they deserve and who have overseen years of managed decline in the health services that so many rely on.

"Staff are rightly angry with how they're being treated.

"They have been overlooked, overworked, undervalued and underpaid.

"The workforce is being expected to fill more and more gaps in service provision."

READ MORE: Trade unions hit back at 'insulting' 7 per cent pay deal 

She said the current pay offer was well below inflation.

Last week, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) voted to strike for the first time in its 106-year history, with walkouts expected to take place before Christmas.

Scottish Labour said ministers should now consider sending in the Army to keep ambulance services running if the strike goes ahead.

The party's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "No one wants these strikes, but I understand that workers have been left with no other option.

"The problems that have been building for years are now at crisis point, but Humza Yousaf is just not listening.

"It's not too late for the SNP to prevent these strikes by getting round the negotiating table and delivering a fair pay deal.

"We need to start contingency planning now to avoid disaster, and the SNP must consider calling in the Army - but that is no substitute for trained paramedics, who need to be properly valued and fairly paid."

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, from the Scottish Conservatives, said it was "disgraceful" that things have been allowed to get to this point.

He said: "The Health Secretary has already shamefully lost the trust of our nurses, now ambulance workers feel they have no choice but to strike too.

"Our hard-working NHS staff have been pushed to the brink by years of SNP mismanagement, which has led to some of the worst working conditions in living memory.

"The SNP Government must now urgently work to avert these dangerous strikes and set out contingency plans in order to protect lives, if they fail to do so."