UNION leaders have warned strikes that could bring Scotland's fisheries protection to a halt are "inevitable after lack of progress in talks with Scottish Government over a row over a pay award that could constitute an "illegal inducement.

The union Unite confirmed it had received a massive strike mandate from members of Marine Scotland with 90% supporting strike action in a 68% turnout.

Unite, which represents around 80 Marine Scotland workers based at Scotland's fisheries protection fleet, say they have reacted furiously to a two per cent pay imposition for 2021 by the Scottish Government stating that it could in fact constitute an ‘illegal inducement’.

An illegal inducement – when an employer imposes a pay award against the wishes of the workforce – breaches collective bargaining arrangements, says the union.

By doing this, the Scottish Government could be potentially in breach of the law, it says.

The Scottish Government previously confirmed the imposition of the pay award in January 2022, in effect a substantial real terms pay cut given that the broader measure of living costs has now hit nine per cent.

It is feared a strike would hit Marine Scotland's marine protection vessels and research ships, nicknamed 'Scotland's Navy' which protect the seas and fisheries around the country.

That could leave the nation's seas open to illegal fishing.

If the Marine Scotland employees strike, it could mean a temporary end to any inspections of foreign fishing boats operating in UK waters and fisheries research ships having to tie-up.

HeraldScotland:

Marine Scotland is responsible for ensuring that fishing fleets comply with the law when catching fish. By preventing overfishing or the wrong size of fish catch, the workforce helps to ensure that fish stocks in Scotland’s seas are sustainable.

Union officials say that the protection team save lives by being able to intervene when vessels are in distress.Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members at Marine Scotland are now at the end of their patience. These workers perform vital and life-saving roles but they’re being told to in effect take a pay cut which is completely unacceptable.”

“The Scottish Government has to come back to us with a more realistic offer at talks next week or strike action is inevitable in the coming weeks. Unite has zero hesitation in defending our members’ jobs, terms and conditions at all times.”

Unite’s members undertake active seafaring roles including engineers, cooks, petty officers, merchant officers, mate and deck hands.

Five years ago, member of Unite working on Scotland's fisheries protection fleet announced a series of strikes in a dispute over bieng paid less than those in comparable jobs in other publicly-owned organisations.

A chief steward could earn up £29,579-a-year at Marine Scotland but £37,675 at ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, which is also controlled by the Scottish government.

The Scottish Parliament then passed a motion put forward by Scottish Labour, stating that Marine Scotland staff should receive a fair pay settlement that recognises their experience and skills.

Sandy Smart, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite has attempted to make progress in pay negotiations with the Scottish Government this week but we have hit a brick wall. Further talks are scheduled for next week but we have little hope the Scottish Government will make an offer which meets the aspirations of our members."