SALARIES in Scotland are lagging £3,000 behind the average British wage and are more than £18,000 less than pay packets in London, a survey reveals today.
The research found only workers in Aberdeen and Edinburgh earned more than the 31,323 average taken home by full-time workers across the UK. But even Aberdeen – with Scotland's highest average salary of 35,959 in 2008 – was still more than 10,000 a year behind average London earnings of 46,462.
The lowest wages in Scotland were in Inverclyde, where the 21,698 average was almost one-third below typical UK earnings. Earnings in rural areas such as the Borders, Moray and Dumfries and Galloway were also well below typical British salaries.
However, Scotland – with a national average salary of 28,296 – fared well compared to other parts of the UK, with only workers in London, the South-East and the East of England tending to earn more, according to the survey by the GMB trade union.
Northern Ireland, the North-East of England and Wales propped up the wages league table, with salaries of around 25,000 typical in each of these areas.
Harry Donaldson, GMB secretary for Scotland, said it came as no surprise that Aberdeen – as a result of the North Sea industry – and Edinburgh, with its dominant financial community, topped the Scottish pay league.
But he said that both cities could see a decline in their fortunes next year, as the full effects of the banking crisis take hold in the capital and as council cuts impact on the wider community in Aberdeen.
Mr Donaldson predicted wages were unlikely to rise substantially next year. He noted that Lyle & Scott had introduced short-term working at its Borders factory as a way of addressing a fall in demand.
"I think we will see a lot of companies that will go for minimal increases or try to go for a wage freeze," he said. "SMEs (small and medium enterprises] are struggling with cash flow and the ability to get credit."
The GMB survey was based on detailed data collated each year by the independent Office for National Statistics.
However the GMB's UK national average of 31,323 is far higher than the ONS average of 24,908 as it refers to the "mean" average – a basic division of all salaries by the number of full-time workers – rather than the "median" preferred by the ONS, which effectively ignores extremely low and high salaries.
The ONS found that salaries in Scotland – where there are 2.2 million full-time posts – increased by 3.7 per cent between April 2007 and April 2008.
The UK unemployment rate is currently 6 per cent and rising at the fastest rate in more than a decade, with 1.86 million people out of work in the UK, including 134,000 in Scotland.