Fair Pay For Nursing

NHS pay in Scotland

The RCN is campaigning for Fair Pay For Nursing.  

The pandemic has given the public a better understanding of the safety critical role of nursing and our profession’s central contribution to the NHS in Scotland. 

Nursing is a safety critical profession that relies on retention of existing staff and recruitment of new staff to ensure patients are cared for safely, whatever the setting.  

Every patient needs and deserves the best quality of care possible. 

Our profession deserves fair pay that recognises our skills, expertise and level of responsibility, and supports retention and recruitment to ensure patient safety. 

Trade dispute in Scotland

RCN members in Scotland are in a trade dispute with Scottish government and NHS Scotland employers.  

RCN Scotland Board Chair wrote to Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf with formal notification of the trade dispute on 23 June.  

The lodging of the trade dispute follows the Scottish government’s decision to implement the single-year NHS pay offer for 2021-22 without engaging in further discussions about RCN Scotland members’ rejection of the pay offer in a consultative ballot in May.

Representatives of the RCN Scotland Board met with the Cabinet Secretary on Wednesday 21 July to discuss the trade dispute. They emphasised members anger and frustration at the lack of value placed on nursing staff by the Scottish government. The Cabinet Secretary requested time to consider what options might be available and a further meeting is being arranged for August.

Read our comment on the trade dispute.  

Read our Frequently Asked Questions (below) for more information about the trade dispute and what this means.   

Check this page regularly for updates and look out for emails on NHS pay in Scotland from the RCN.  
If you have questions about the pay offer or the next steps, please email PayCampaignScotland@rcn.org.uk

Read the Scottish government NHS Scotland Agenda for Change pay offer in full.

Organising for Change

Have you considered joining in our Organising for Change training and development programme? Find out more about how this new model can help you influence for change in your workplace. 

Order campaign materials

Use these resources to help spread the word, talk to other members and build support for our campaign.

Five things to say about pay

Read our key talking points as part of the RCN's Fair Pay for Nursing campaign
Close up of hands typing on a laptop

Update your details

Now, more than ever, we need to make sure we have the most up to date contact details for you. Visit MyRCN today and update your details
people on a picket line

Summer of Action

Our ‘Summer of Action’ is planned to ensure politicians know our campaign for fair pay won’t stop until nursing is respected and protected.. Events will be held across the UK as we prepare to consult members on next steps. 

Frequently asked questions

The questions and answers below provide more information about the pay offer and member consultative ballot in Scotland.

This list will be updated regularly - members can contact the RCN via email at PayCampaignScotland@rcn.org.uk with questions they would like to see answered here.  


A trade dispute is a dispute between an employer (or government minister) and workers in connection with their terms and conditions. The RCN has lodged the trade dispute following the Scottish government’s decision to implement the single-year NHS pay offer for 2021-22 for NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions without engaging in further discussions about RCN members’ rejection of the pay offer in a consultative ballot in May. We had a good response to the ballot and have a significant mandate from our members. More than two thirds of RCN members in Scotland who responded voted to reject. 

This means that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) considers it is now in a formal trade dispute with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland Employers in accordance with s.244 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. The dispute relates to pay, which is fundamental to our members’ terms and conditions. It is also fundamental to ensuring that Scotland has the nursing workforce it needs to provide safe and effective patient care. The lodging of the trade dispute does not commit the RCN to any future action and RCN members will decide what happens if no acceptable outcome is achieved.

 That is up to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care. We are calling on Scottish government to agree to further negotiations and we await their response. The decisions on what happens after that, sits with our members. We will ask members what steps they are willing to take.

Taking industrial action is always a last resort action for any trade union – and particularly for a union representing nursing staff, for whom patient care is always the absolute first priority. 

The decision on what happens after we receive a response from Scottish government sits with you, our members. We will ask you what steps you are willing to take. It is worth remembering that the RCN took industrial action in Northern Ireland in 2019/2020. This is not a step we took at all lightly then and or now. You have said you are exhausted, disenfranchised and feeling undervalued and the Scottish government’s failure to meet with us, as an organisation, has particularly exacerbated that strength of feeling.  

The Scottish government’s single-year pay offer to NHS staff for 2021-22 relates to all staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions employed by the NHS in Scotland. You can find more information about what this means for you in the Scottish government pay offer document. You  can also email your questions to the RCN at PayCampaignScotland@rcn.org.uk

The 1% payment on account was an advance on pay, so this will be absorbed into any uplift when it is applied. The payment on account was effective from 1 December 2020 and the full agreed uplift will also be effective from that date.  For example, if the pay agreement entitles you to a 4% uplift when the new rates are applied, your salary will only increase by 3% as your salary has already been increased by 1% through the payment on account provision.  Unsocial hour and enhancement allowances will also be increased in accordance with the new pay rates.

The Scottish government’s budget is made up of a number of different funding sources, including devolved tax revenues, and Barnett formula-based block grant funding from the UK government. Under the Barnett formula, the Scottish government receives a population-based proportion of changes in planned UK government spending on devolved services in England, or England and Wales.  

For example, if funding for England’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) increases, the Scottish Government receives a population-based increase in its funding, known colloquially as ‘Barnett consequentials’. Similarly, if DHSC’s budget decreases, the Scottish government’s budget would decrease as a population-based proportion of that decrease.  This paragraph of the offer concerns the treatment of any Barnett consequentials that may result from a funded increase for the Agenda for Change pay uplift in England in the DHSC’s budget beyond the UK government’s proposals.

The pay offer on applies to staff with Agenda for Change terms and conditions. The RCN’s position remains that registered nurses and nursing support workers employed in the independent sector should be paid at least the same as their counterparts in the NHS. We anticipate that improvements in NHS pay will have a positive effect on pay in other sectors. 

Read our latest blogs 

Page last updated - 29/07/2021