Labour has criticised former first minister Nicola Sturgeon for joining striking school workers in Edinburgh.

They said the Unison picket lines were “not photo opportunities” but “a symbol of failure in government.”

Schools across Scotland have been closed for most of the week after thousands of support staff walked out in protest over pay.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf urges Unison to suspend school strikes

While the direct negotiations are between the unions and Cosla, the umbrella body for Scoltand’s councils, the Scottish Government is ultimately responsible for the money available to the country’s local authorities.

Ms Sturgeon posed for a picture with Unison members outside Royal Mile Primary in Edinburgh, close to the Scottish Parliament.

The union said the ex-SNP leader had stood and spoken with the workers on the Canongate and had wished them "the best of luck".

Sharron Macaulay said: "It was great to see Nicola this morning, she was very friendly. I hope she didn’t feel ambushed, as we shouted her over from the other side of the street.

"But she didn’t have to come over or have her photo taken with us, we are delighted she did, and she wished us all the best of luck.

"I just hope she still has some influence in Government to get Humza around the table to help settle this dispute."

READ MORE: GMB official urges Unison to call off industrial action

Labour MSP Mark Griffin said: "After presiding over devastating cuts to councils, Nicola Sturgeon truly has a brass neck to show up to the picket lines.

"The level of hypocrisy this shows is truly astounding and it flies in the face of what her own government is doing to handle these strikes.

"Picket lines are not photo opportunities but they are a symbol of failure in government.

"Nicola Sturgeon would be better telling the First Minister to step in and stump up the cash to resolve this strike, beginning with reversing their brutal cuts to local councils that have decimated budgets for years."

Earlier this week, Mr Yousaf urged Unison to suspend the strikes, saying that the deal being put forward by Cosla was “a very good offer indeed.”

The package would see a minimum wage increase of £2,006 for those on the Scottish Government’s living wage and a minimum increase of £1,929 for workers who are earning above the living wage.

The living wage of £10.85 will rise to £11.89 under the new offer, equivalent to a 9.6% increase.

While there was initially consensus between the three trade unions involved in talks, the GMB and Unite suspended their strikes and urged members to accept the deal.

READ MORE: Education Secretary confirms £7m for abuse victims used in pay deal

Unison’s Scottish secretary Lilian Macer said: “Unison's Scottish secretary Lilian Macer said: “It was great to see Nicola Sturgeon meet Unison members on a picket line at Edinburgh’s Royal Mile Primary School and they were delighted to meet her.

"At least when Nicola was First Minister, she got around the table with Unison to negotiate a settlement. Where is Humza?”

The First Minister's spokesman said that Mr Yousaf and Deputy First Minister Shona Robison had kept "a close eye" on the talks and been in dialogue with the unions and councils.

"But the direct negotiations, the agreement has to be reached between Colsa and the unions," he added.


A Scottish Government spokesperson said earlier on Thursday: “We have worked constructively in partnership with Cosla and councils to find a solution, facilitated by an additional £80 million of funding and flexibility from the Scottish Government.

“We have ensured there will be no detrimental impact on jobs or services, including on Pupil Equity Funding levels or operation of the redress scheme, as a result of this additional funding. Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government had already provided £155 million in 2023-24 to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, and provided assurances over funding in 2024-25.

“Scottish Government and Cosla will continue to work together to minimise disruption for all affected areas.

“Affected local authorities will ensure that schools and learning establishments remain open as far as is practical, taking into consideration staffing levels and individual establishment risk assessments.”

A spokesperson for Cosla previously said the latest pay offer was “very strong” and “equates to 10% or £2,006 for the lowest paid at the request of the trade unions”.

They added: “Throughout these negotiations we have met every request of our trade union colleagues.”