By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 26 July 2011
Labour has accused the Scottish Government of failing to live up to a promise to pay all its employees at least the ‘Living Wage’, the minimum income campaigners say is needed for a decent quality of life. Figures secured through Freedom of Information requests show that almost 1,000 staff earn less than the £7.15-an-hour figure.
These staff are spread across a range of departments and agencies, including the court service, the prison service and Scottish Natural Heritage, and cover both direct government employees and contractors’ staff.
The figures were unearthed by Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who said: ‘The Scottish Government directly controls the pay packets of thousands of Scots through its various agencies, bodies and sub-contracting arrangements, yet they are failing to utilise the significant powers they have. There is no excuse for inaction.
‘If the Scottish National Party government are serious about the Living Wage then they have got to lead by example. Otherwise, what hope have we got of the private sector following suit?’
The figures contrast with January’s Scottish Government Public Sector Pay Guide, which echoed SNP election promises by declaring: ‘The policy intention is that the employer of every worker whose pay is controlled directly by the Scottish Government will meet the living wage target for £7.15 an hour.’
Covering 45 public bodies, the figures identify 517 direct employees and 417 contractor staff earning less than the Living Wage.
These totals are incomplete, with Labour claiming that lack of detailed records leaves some figures lower than they should be. But the totals also include probationers, trainees and groups for whom wage rises to above £7.15 have already been agreed.
The most conspicuous under-payer is the tourism agency VisitScotland, shown to have 291 direct employees and nine contractor staff paid below Living Wage.
David Anderson, head of human resources at VisitScotland, told Public Finance that the organisation would uprate the pay of the staff concerned over the next few months to comply with the Living Wage policy.
He said: ‘Every year we submit a request on staff pay awards to the Scottish Government. For this year that means complying with updated government policy on the Living Wage. We will award the updated wage to all affected permanent members of staff over the coming months.’