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by Joseph Lozada
31 January 2024
Pay rise for MSPs

Pay rise for MSPs

MSPs are set to receive a 6.7 per cent pay rise

The rise takes the base rate for all 129 MSPs from £67,662 to £72,195 and comes after the method for calculating Holyrood salary increases was switched from the ONS annual survey of hours and earnings (ASHE) to the more generous average weekly earnings (AWE). The increase will take effect on 1 April and follows an increase of 1.5 per cent last year and 3.4 per cent the year before.

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw – representing the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – announced the move at a Finance and Public Administration Committee meeting.

Ministers are also entitled to extra money on top of the base rate but since April 2009, in recognition of “wider economic and fiscal pressures”, they have declined to accept their full entitlement. Following the announcement on the latest rise, a Scottish Government spokesperson said the voluntary pay freeze for ministers would continue for the 16th consecutive year. The reduction is taken from their net pay and reused in the government’s public expenditure. 

How do MSPs salaries compare to those of MPs?
The basic annual salary for MPs is £86,584. In the last 25 years, MPs have gone from earning around £7,000 more than members of the Scottish Parliament to almost £19,000, until the latest Holyrood pay award.  

At Westminster, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) reviews  salaries and makes a recommendation based on its findings.  

The figure increases significantly for members who hold ministerial and cabinet roles. MSPs who are also elected at Westminster, like Douglas Ross, are not paid both salaries in full. They are paid a dual mandate salary of £22,554 by the Scottish Parliament on top of their MP salary.

Do MSPs need (or deserve) a pay rise?

MSP salaries were historically set at seven-eighths of MP salaries, but Holyrood severed the link to Westminster in 2016 to make parliamentary pay reflect public sector increases in Scotland instead. However, a spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said the method for calculating parliamentary pay “has been increasingly out of sync with other wage inflation indices to the point that MSPs received 1.5 per cent last year when general inflation was running at 10 per cent”. 

Regardless, being an MSP pays well. Their new salary is nearly twice that of the Scottish median rate, which stood at £35,518 last year. Following the increase, First Minister Humza Yousaf will be eligible for a total annual salary of £170,211, which is higher than that of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Some commentators have defended the pay rise on the grounds that it may attract a better calibre of parliamentarian and discourage MSPs from holding second jobs. This may make some sense, but it’s concerning that both arguments are purely negative – to improve the  political gene pool or deter unethical practices. No one seems to be saying that MSPs deserve a pay rise on merit alone. 

What do people think?

Paying politicians more is rarely received with much enthusiasm by the public, especially in times of economic hardship. As heating bills skyrocket and shopping gets more expensive, the news that MSPs are to receive another salary rise has been widely criticised. 

Indeed, the rise comes as MSPs are considering the government’s budget, which was published on 19 December and proposes raising taxes and delivering a £200m cut to the housing budget. Earlier this month Heriot-Watt University published a report revealing that homelessness levels in Scotland could rise by a third in the next two years if the government does not act. 

And the fact that MSPs managed to secure a pay rise with such ease while other public sector workers – nurses, teachers, train drivers among them – have been striking over pay levels for years exacerbates the perceived gulf between Holyrood and the rest of Scotland. 

In advance of her budget, SNP finance secretary Shona Robison said in a BBC interview in November that “the size of the workforce will have to reduce” due to tight budgets and inflation-driven pay deals.


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