EDUCATION Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville was branded an "embarrassment to Scotland” during a heated exchange over teacher pay negotiations. 

The Tory education spokesman, Stephen Kerr, said the SNP minister had gone “missing in action” during the talks. 

But the minister said it was for Colsa to take part in negotiations. She said four offers had already been made.

Members of the EIS are due to strike on Thursday, while the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) is planning industrial action over two days in December.

Ms Somerville told MSPs that the budget was under considerable pressure: “The UK Government made clear in the autumn statement that there is no additional support for public sector pay. Not one penny.

“So I’m afraid the 10 per cent pay claim that is coming from the teacher unions is unaffordable to the Scottish Government.

“Any extra money for pay deals will have to be found elsewhere within an already contained Scottish Government budget.”

“So fault with the place that we are in lies absolutely with the UK Government and the mess that they have driven to the UK economy and the levels of inflation,” she added.

Mr Kerr hit out at the SNP minister’s attempt to pass the buck on to Westminster.

“What an embarrassment,” he said. “What an embarrassment to Scotland to have a Cabinet Secretary in an area like education which is fully devolved blame the UK Government. It is beyond pathetic. 

“No wonder teachers are leaving the profession. Who can blame them? Teachers are striking over violence in classrooms.

"The lack of permanent contracts for teachers when they finish their probation. Their voices are ignored in SNP education reforms. 

“This Cabinet Secretary, by that answer alone, is letting down teachers. 


“Add to that the fact that they've been waiting seven months for a deal on pay, teachers are already at least £2000 out of pocket because of this delay. 


“What was stopping the Cabinet Secretary negotiating a deal in April? 


“It's absolutely negligent on her part, to allow these things to get to this sorry pass. 


“The Cabinet Secretary has been missing in action for months. Why? 


“Why does this SNP Scottish Government hold teachers in such contempt? The Cabinet Secretary must do better. Will she now apologise to the teaching profession for letting them down and ignoring them?“


Ms Somerville said it was “important to recognise what the Scottish Government has already done during this dispute.” 


She told MSPs: “For example, we have already committed £50m towards the teachers' offer that's currently on the table. 


“And if the current deal had been accepted by teachers, which I accept it was not, it would have allowed teachers to get a cumulative increase since 2018 of 21.8%. 


“It would have also ensured that the starting salary for a newly qualified teacher would have been over £35,000, significantly more than the £28,000 in England.” 


The SNP minister said the government had “already had to make hard choices.”


“The funding must come from elsewhere within the Scottish Government budget. And Mr. Kerr can come to the chamber and bluster all he likes but what I did not hear in any of the challenges that he gave to me was a suggestion of how we could actually improve the offer, where that money would come from, and what he would want the savings to be made from. 


“Unfortunately, the position that we are in is those savings would have to be found elsewhere, that is the context and the reality of the situation.”


Ms Somerville later told the Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie that there would be “implications” for the rest of the education budget from any improved deal.