Fair Pay for Nursing: Take action today

NHS pay in Scotland

Almost 30% of RCN members working in the NHS in Scotland responded to the indicative ballot on industrial action that closed on Monday (8 November).

90% of those who cast their vote said they would be willing to take industrial action short of strike. Six out of 10 members said they would be willing to withdraw their labour in strike action.

The RCN will carefully consider the result of the ballot in determining the next steps in the continuing trade dispute with the Scottish government and NHS employers. A statutory industrial action ballot would be required before any industrial action could take place. Read more

The RCN remains committed to keeping members informed – check back on this page for updates, watch out for emails from the RCN and check Facebook and Twitter. You can also find out more in our FAQs (below).

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Industrial Action Handbook

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Frequently asked questions

The result of the indicative ballot will not formally authorise industrial action - it will be used to inform the next steps RCN members take. The RCN appreciates that members will have concerns around your professional registration, your employment and patient safety should you chose to take industrial action in the future. The RCN Industrial Action Handbook provides a comprehensive guide to industrial action, what it involves, how it is initiated and organised for RCN members, including protecting patient safety. The following frequently asked questions include information from the handbook as well as answers to additional questions about the indicative ballot. 

The aim of the indicative ballot was to gauge the strength of feeling of RCN members about industrial action in relation to the trade dispute with the Scottish government and NHS employers regarding the 2021/2022 pay offer. RCN members employed by the NHS in Scotland on Agenda for Change contracts were asked whether they personally would be willing, in principle, to take any form of industrial action, including strike action and action short of strike action.  

We will receive the full results of the indicative ballot shortly. RCN Scotland Board will consider what the results of the ballot tell us about the strength of member feeling about industrial action in relation to the trade dispute with the Scottish government and NHS employers regarding the 2021/22 pay offer. 

If there is significant support for industrial action, RCN Scotland Board will consider all options, which could include proceeding to a statutory ballot for industrial action. However, industrial action is always a last resort. A statutory ballot is a legal requirement before industrial action can take place. There are also strict thresholds that need to be met – in Scotland, 50% of all members eligible to vote must turn out and vote and, if the majority of members are engaged in important public services, then 40% of all members eligible to vote must vote in favour of industrial action. If the majority of members are not engaged in important public services, then a simple majority will suffice. 

If the outcome does not indicate sufficient support from members for industrial action the RCN Scotland Board will consider how best to progress the Fair Pay for Nursing Campaign in other ways. 

There is no definition of action short of a strike but generally, it means working strictly to the terms of your contract of employment often referred to as ‘working to rule’. This can include taking all your contractual breaks and/or starting/finishing your shifts strictly on time and or/refusing to undertake paid or unpaid overtime. By working to rule, you are withdrawing the goodwill that your employer often relies on to carry out its business effectively. Therefore, action short of strike action can result in a disruption to an employer’s business if carried out by most of the workforce. This may place pressure on an employer or government to reconsider its position in any industrial or trade dispute. 

Strike action involves a complete withdrawal of labour from the workplace. This could be for half a day, a day or longer depending on the dispute. Strike action will almost certainly result in a disruption to an employer’s business and place greater pressure on an employer or government to reconsider its position in any dispute. Industrial action is a powerful weapon as your labour is NHS Scotland’s most valuable asset. 

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 award letter. You  can also email your questions to the RCN at PayCampaignScotland@rcn.org.uk 

The RCN remains in a trade dispute with the Scottish government and NHS employers regarding the 2021/22 pay offer.

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.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)remains 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 the 2021/22 pay offer, 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. 

The amount you contribute to the pension scheme is based on your pensionable earnings. If you work part time, they use your whole-time equivalent pay to work out your contribution rate. When you receive an annual pay increase during a Scheme year (on or after 1 April) your employer should re-assess the tiered contribution rate and apply a new contribution rate if this is appropriate. For some therefore, the annual pay award means they move into a higher contribution tier which has an impact on take home pay. 

More information about this can be found on the Scottish Public Pensions Agency website here

The Scottish Government is likely to launch a consultation on a proposal to change NHS Scotland pension contribution rates from April 2022 in the near future. The detail of the proposal is still be developed. Whilst this won’t impact your take home pay this year i.e. up to 31 March 2022, you should be aware that the proposed changes may mean that you contribute more to be a member of the NHS pension scheme after 1 April 2022. 


The RCN is represented on the NHS Scotland Pension Scheme Advisory Board and is lobbying for minimum change to the contribution framework given the uncertainties arising from the McCloud judgement. The final decision on the framework sits with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care. 

Once the consultation is live full details of the consultation will be available on the RCN website. You will be given the opportunity to add your voice to the RCN’s response. You’ll find more general information on workplace pensions here

What's next for NHS pay

Indicative ballots on NHS pay in England, Scotland and Wales are now closed. Find out more about the campaign in your country and ways you can be involved.

Page last updated - 11/11/2021