Nurses in Scotland are “understaffed, under pressure and underpaid”, Labour said yesterday.
The party has pledged to scrap the cap on public-sector pay that limits rises to a below-inflation 1 per cent.
Health spokesman Anas Sarwar used a debate at Holyrood to call on the Scottish Government to match that commitment.
Labour claims nurses have seen their wages fall by an average of £3,400 in real terms since 2010 as a result of the cap.
Mr Sarwar said he had met with nurses who had told him about colleagues taking second jobs or having to attend food banks, with one describing “the lowest morale amongst staff ever”.
He told MSPs at Holyrood: “Nursing staff want to do their very best for patients but their best efforts are often coming up against the reality of pressures on the workforce.
“In short, too few nurses doing too much work for too little reward – under-resourced, understaffed and under pressure, and clearly underpaid.
“Underpaid by this Scottish Government, which has the ability to do something about it.
“Underpaid by the government which needs to recognise the impact that their austerity is having on the recruitment, retention and morale of Scotland’s nurses.”
The Scottish Government said it had consistently implemented the recommendations of the UK’s NHS Independent Pay Review body and had passed on recommended pay uplifts in full in Scotland, unlike other parts of the country.
Health secretary Shona Robison said nurses were being offered “jam tomorrow” from a party “that has no prospect of winning the general election”.
She said: “Nurses in Scotland are over £300 better off at the starting point of Band 5 than anywhere else in these islands, including in Labour-run Wales, and of course no-one stays on point one of their band.
“It is about pay and pay progression, and those nurses starting at point one in 2010 will now be £7,500 better off because they would have worked through that scale.”
Ms Robison said she would work with unions to assess the impact of pay restraints.
Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said the 1 per cent rise should stand and staff suported “in other non-financial ways.”