The Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ispa) decided to press ahead yesterday with a pay increase far above the 1 per cent going to public sector workers over the next four years.
The decision, made against the wishes of Prime Minister David Cameron and other party leaders, will take MPs salaries up to £74,000 but will also see their expenses curtailed in a bid to make the rise “cash neutral”.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson made it clear the extra pay for the party’s 56 MPs should go to charity or local good causes.
He said: “Now is a time of austerity and huge financial difficulties for far too many people. It is not right for MPs to have a pay-rise in these circumstances.
“As IPSA has gone ahead with these changes, I think it would be right to use the funds to support good causes.’’
An SNP spokesman said salaries are set independently by Ipsa and automatically paid to MPs, who cannot opt out of them.
A spokesman for Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell said that what he does with his salary increase is “a private matter”. But he pointed out that Mr Mundell “gives a lot of money to charity, like many MPs, and will increase this amount”.
Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “It was right for parliament to give all issues with regards to MPs pay and condition to an independent body but they have simply got this wrong. At a time when public sector pay is restricted, MPs pay should continue to be restricted to those increases.
“Anything else would show IPSA is out of touch with the public and therefore doing the public a disservice.”
Liberal Democrat former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “I have said in the past that I would not want my pay to rise by anything over that which is allowed to other public sector workers.
“I shall therefore look to find a means of using the extra money to contribute towards my parliamentary running costs.”
Of the SNP MPs contacted by The Scotsman, all said they would spend the salary increase on local good causes or charities in their constituencies.
East Lothian MP and former Scotsman associate editor George Kerevan said: “I take only the Scottish median wage which is circa £27,000. I also have a state teaching pension. My earnings in excess of these, including earnings from journalism, are used to further constituency or parliamentary work, or given to good causes locally. This is a purely personal decision. Other folk have different personal and family circumstances.”
Edinburgh East SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said he would take the same salary increase as public sector workers and donate the rest to local groups and charities. He added: “I will make an immediate donation to Our Forth, which is an organisation campaigning against fracking.” Downing Street has refused to say whether David Cameron will donate to charity the £7,000 rise he will receive in his pay as an MP, insisting that how he spends his salary is “a private matter”.
The Prime Minister previously branded the substantial boost, backdated to 8 May and tied to cuts in pensions and expenses, “unacceptable” at a time of austerity.
Asked whether Mr Cameron would accept the rise or hand it to charity – as MPs including Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and three Labour leadership contenders have said they will – the spokeswoman said: “It is Ipsa that determines MPs’ pay and therefore how much the PM earns as an MP. How he spends his salary is a private matter.”
Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper called on the Prime Minister to intervene to stop the increase, something which would require a change in the law.
Ms Cooper, along with fellow-contenders Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall, has said she will donate any extra cash to a good cause.
She said: “This is crazy. How on earth has David Cameron allowed this to happen? He needs to step in urgently and stop this MPs’ pay rise going ahead,”
“The idea of increasing MPs’ pay by 10 per cent at a time when nurses, care workers, police officers and our armed forces face another five years’ pay freeze is completely unfair.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “If pay restraint is at an end for politicians – who are public servants too – it should also be over for nurses, teaching assistants, hospital cleaners, council staff and other public sector workers.”
But Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy defended the rise: “Over the last Parliament, MPs’ pay increased by 2 per cent, compared to 5 per cent in the public sector and 10 per cent in the whole economy.
“It is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.”