NICOLA Sturgeon is facing walk-outs by her own civil servants, after the union representing them said it was set to ballot for a strike.

The PCS Scotland union has told almost 10,000 workers to gear up for industrial action over pay and conditions, with dispute letters being issued to the Government shortly.

It comes on top of separate strike ballots being run by other unions for council staff.

In an email to workers across the devolved sector, PCS industrial officer Joy Dunn said the union had spent months in talks with the Government, but staff still faced a “massive real terms pay cut” because of soaring inflation. 

In February, PCS Scotland ran a consultative ballot which found support for industrial action if their pay claim for 2022 was ignored.

Ms Dunn said: “That time is approaching and PCS members across the Scottish sector will need to stand together to demand that pay and living standards are protected for you and your families.

"Over the coming weeks PCS will be holding members' meetings and getting in touch with key information about the ballot.”

The ballot would involve civil servants working in all Scottish Government departments, including the core service serving the SNP-Green administration, as well as staff in courts, prisons, museums and galleries.

The most senior civil servants are usually members of the separate FDA.

The PCS is asking for a cost of living-related pay rise of 10 per cent, a living wage of £15 an hour, more annual leave, and a “significant reduction” in the working week for the same pay.

The Scottish Government’s pay policy for 2022/23 is for a minimum wage of £10.50 an hour and stepped increases in salary worth about 3 per cent at most to the lowest paid.

Those earning £25,000 and below get a £775 cash uplift, those earning between £25,000 and £40,000 get a £700 bump, and those earning over £40,000 get £500 more.

Despite deputy FM John Swinney announcing last week that the Government would give councils an extra £140million to help raise pay and avert strikes in local government, Ms Dunn said that Government officials were maintaining there was “no additional money to increase pay beyond the core elements of pay policy” for central government staff.

Instead, the Government had said individual quangos and agencies could use 0.5% of their existing pay budget to tweak pay awards. 

The PCS said it would now get back round the table with employers to explore how this might work, but did not expect “protracted discussions”.

Ms Dunn said: “We need to further convene negotiations on a short-term basis to explore all options. 

“It should also be noted that because of the nature of UK anti-trade union legislation, trade dispute letters will be issued shortly to employers to ensure we are in any ballot, as required.  

“PCS and other civil service trade unions have spent months in negotiations. 

“But as matters currently stand, members face a massive real terms pay cut and living standards being further eroded during the worst economic crisis since the 1970s.” 

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: "Unless the Scottish Government get their act together, key services will be paralysed.

"Most people understand that workers are facing soaring bills and runaway inflation. The SNP are playing a reckless high wire act, daring workers to go out on strike. It's time they put in place a sustainable and long-term funding deal for staff.

"The Finance Secretary has already suggested that thousands of job cuts could be coming down the line. This is a direct consequence of the SNP's failure to get the economy growing and generate vital tax revenues."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scottish Ministers recognise, given the change in the economic climate, that it may be necessary for public bodies covered by Public Sector Pay Policy to go beyond the flexibility parameters set out in the 2022/23 pay policy.

"Ministers expect that pay awards that exceed pay policy parameters remain sustainable and affordable.

“The Civil Service workforce is integral to our recovery from the pandemic and Ministers urge all parties to continue dialogue and reach a resolution which avoids industrial action.”