MINISTERS have been accused of a "dereliction of duty" as police officers threaten “costly and disruptive” action after rejecting a pay offer as unrest in the public sector over pay escalates.

The governing body of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents frontline officers, yesterday rejected a £565 annual pay increase.

The group’s joint central committee (JCC) reached a unanimous decision at a meeting in Inverness to refuse the offer and support internal forms of action.

Calum Steele, the Scottish Police Federation’s general secretary, said: “At their most basic level, these actions amount to the wholesale removal of the good will that the service requires to operate. Significantly, this good will and flexibility saves the police service money, and its removal will be both costly and disruptive.”

It comes in the wake of an angry backlash after ministers agreed a "breakthrough" 5% pay deal with train drivers union Aslef which could end a row which has led to major cuts to nationalised ScotRail services.

The included a “top-up revenue sharing arrangement” that could potentially raise the pay increase to nearly 10% which would apply where revenue targets are exceeded.

The prospect of thousands of Scots local authority workers from cleaners and binmen to care workers and school staff going on strike this summer in pay disputes has come even closer as three key unions Unison, GMB and Unite prepare for strike ballots over a 2.2% offer.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene said: “It speaks volumes for how badly our hard-working police officers have been treated by the SNP government that the Scottish Police Federation feel they have no option but to take action.

HeraldScotland:

“This is not a decision they will have come to easily. But the SNP are cynically exploiting the fact that police officers cannot strike, and have offered them a pay deal that falls well below those made to others in the public sector. This has no doubt demoralised officers at a time when they’re desperately needed to tackle rising violent crime.

“This is nothing but a dereliction of duty by an SNP Government which has found cash for its push for a divisive referendum but, disgracefully, not for frontline police.

“Due to planned budget cuts to policing, this problem could become a recurring theme every year unless the SNP U-turn and give the police the resources they promised in their manifesto.”

The JCC criticised the Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland and Scottish ministers for "the continued failure to return to the negotiating table".

The dispute between the "official side" - the Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland and Scottish government ministers - and staff is being handled by the Police Negotiating Board.

Members of the force are restricted on how they can protest, for legal reasons, but Mr Steele said SPF members were willing to take action “for many months” unless “significant improvement” is made.

Mr Steele added: These actions will be seeking to mitigate the disruptive and costly impact of policing on them and their families, at a time when the cost of living crisis is compounding the mental and physical ill health of officers.

HeraldScotland:

"The resolve of our members is strong. These actions are capable of being escalated, and they are capable of being sustained.

"We do not expect the impact of these actions to be felt by our communities as they are entirely internally focused, and are not in any way designed to diminish the service we provide them."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We recognise the considerable goodwill officers bring to their roles on a daily basis as they keep people safe across the country, and this is also valued by the communities they serve.

"We therefore remain committed, through the Police Negotiating Board, to seeking a settlement."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "Police officer pay is negotiated through the Police Negotiating Board (PNB), as it has been for many years. The PNB process is ongoing in relation to pay for 2022/23, and we await the outcome of those discussions."

Public services in Scotland are braced for “brutal” cuts after ministers unveiled spending plan just over a week ago that will slash more than £1 billion from key areas including councils and the police.

Last week COSLA has expressed "deep disappointment" that the First Minister and Ms Forbes refused a request from all council leaders to engage in discussions regarding the current settlement for local government and its "significant impact on our ongoing pay negotiations".

And a last-ditch attempt by unions to avert industrial action in a letter to Ms Sturgeon and Ms Forbes also failed.

The train drivers' union Aslef who have been in the depths of their own pay dispute decided to recommend acceptance of the pay deal that could mean an annual rise of up to 10% after negotiations with the nationalised rail operator ScotRail's management. It is being put to drivers.

Union sources have said that the development clearly showed that the 2.2% offer to tens of thousands of public sector staff for 2022/23 was inadequate.