SCOTLAND’S nurses could go on strike for the first time in history after NHS staff across the country rejected a 5 per cent pay offer from ministers. 

The Royal College of Nursing, Unite Scotland, the GMB and Unison have all said that their members are prepared to walk out. 

They dismissed the pay offer as a “real terms pay cut”. 

Labour said SNP health minister Humza Yousaf needed to "wake up to the crisis before him."

The RCN has now taken the first formal step towards industrial action, with a strike ballot going out to all members. 

Julie Lamberth, Chair, RCN Scotland Board said the Scottish Government had “relied on the good will of nursing staff for too long.” 

She said: “Members’ response to the Scottish government’s pay offer is unprecedented. We are angry and frustrated that the Scottish government has yet again failed to address Scotland’s nursing workforce crisis and has proposed yet another real terms pay cut for our members.  

“We are clear that this offer doesn’t recognise the skill and responsibility of the job we do.

"It does nothing to protect patient safety by addressing the chronic levels of staff shortages or help nursing staff cope with the cost-of-living crisis. 

“It won’t help recruit to nursing now, at a time when there are over 6,000 unfilled jobs, nor keep much-needed experienced nurses and nursing support workers in nursing.  

“The Scottish Government has relied on the good will of nursing staff for too long.  

“Enough is enough. In all my years in nursing I have never known such strength of determination amongst nursing staff.

"We will be urging members to support strike action and I encourage every eligible member to use their vote when the time comes.” 

Unite’s membership of NHS staff work in every pay band across the health service and voted to reject the pay offer by 89%. In a consultative ballot, 77% favoured a walkout.

James O’Connell, Unite regional officer, said: “These hard working and courageous workers really deserve far more from the Scottish Government.

“Instead, they are being forced into a position whereby the only way they are going to get a decent pay rise is through strike action.

“This situation is exclusively down to the Scottish Government because they are also hoarding a £650 million underspend.”

GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said: “If the minister wants to recruit and retain the people desperately needed to help our NHS recover from the peril it is in, then he must value these key workers better, and particularly those in the lowest pay grades who do not receive the biggest cash increases under this offer.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the Scottish Government had failed to support Scotland’s nurses.

She said: "We are currently facing a staffing crisis in our NHS that is endangering lives – and nurses are still not receiving the fair pay they deserve.

“The responsibility for this rests squarely with the SNP’s do-nothing health minister – Humza Yousaf.

"If Humza Yousaf does not wake up to the crisis before him and act soon, we face further serious disruption to our NHS.

“The SNP-Green government must suck it up and sit down with the RCN and other health trade unions to hear their concerns and act accordingly.

“No one wants strikes – but this is the result of SNP-Green negligence and failure. It cannot continue.”

Mr Yousaf said: “While we respect the mandate given to trade unions, I am disappointed they have voted to reject the record 5% pay deal for NHS Scotland Agenda for Change staff, and are now holding ballots for industrial action.

“We will consider the next steps and look to re-engage with trade unions as soon as we can, and hope to reach a satisfactory outcome.”