DOCTORS, nurses, teachers and civil servants across Scotland face a blanket pay freeze from April next year under moves being proposed by the Conservatives to cope with public-sector cutbacks.
Any public-sector worker earning more than 18,000 would have to accept a freeze if the move, already proposed by the Tories in England, is enacted north of the Border.
The Conservatives will demand the measure as the price for their support for an SNP budget next year, The Scotsman has learned.
The move has a good chance of being enacted as First Minister Alex Salmond's minority government will almost certainly require Tory backing to get its budget through the parliament.
The call for a pay freeze will be made by Scots Conservative leader Annabel Goldie in a speech this evening, when she will warn the coming public sector cutbacks are likely to hit hard.
The Conservatives said last week they would begin to cut public sector spending "from day one" if they won the general election, in order to reduce Britain's 175 billion budget deficit.
Labour, too, has warned that cuts will have to be deep. Chancellor Alistair Darling said yesterday people should be in "no doubt" that a Labour government would commit to its own cutbacks. Figures of 17 per cent reductions in departmental spending have not been contradicted by officials.
In Scotland, the SNP government has said the best-paid public servants may have their pay frozen this coming financial year but has so far held out against calls for a more widespread freeze.
However, Ms Goldie will warn: "We must spend less. That is why I believe we must freeze public sector pay in Scotland in 2011-12 for people who earn over 18,000.
"This freeze is not about penalising people – it is about saving people's jobs. A pay freeze on this scale is the equivalent of saving 10,000 jobs. I would rather people were in work with a pay freeze than out of work with no pay at all."
Calls for a pay freeze have already been backed by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions think tank.
However, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, MSP, said his party would oppose any freeze. He said: "The Tory plans will actively damage the economy by taking the money out of the pockets of hard-working Scottish families."