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Sturgeon under fire for criticising police officers seeking better pay

NICOLA STURGEON came under pressure today after she appeared to brand a police officer calling for a better pay rise “disgraceful.”

The First Minister’s office denied that she had criticised the officer after the disparity between the pay rise offered to teachers and those awarded to other public-sector workers was highlighted in the Scottish Parliament.

Last week, the Educational Institute of Scotland suspended plans for a strike ballot after ministers offered teachers a 13.5 per cent rise over three years.

Tory MSP Graham Simpson said a serving police officer from East Kilbride had written to him, saying: “Whilst I appreciate that teachers have worked hard and do deserve a pay rise, why is it that NHS staff were given 9 per cent and police officers only 6.5 per cent?”

According to Mr Simpson, the officer went on to ask: “Does the Scottish government place the value of police officers as only half that of school teachers? Is it that the government knows that, because police officers cannot strike or take any real industrial action, they are an easy target?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Parts of those comments were quite disgraceful. I value all public-sector workers and I thank them for the work that they do.”

She went on to argue that the Scotland had seen the “best award for police officers anywhere in the United Kingdom.”

Mr Simpson called on the First Minister to “apologise for being so dismissive of his concerns.”

But when challenged by the Star, Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman insisted: “She was referring to Graham Simpson’s characterisation of it.”

The spokesman went on to tell reporters that Mr Simpson “was trying to imply [the First Minister] doesn’t value all public-sector workers equally.”

He added: “Look guys, we can sit here all day, you can keep coming back at me. The First Minister’s comments were directed at Graham Simpson. End of.”

Earlier this week, general union Unite wrote to Scottish councils’ umbrella body Cosla asking for its own pay claim to be reopened in light of the offer made to teachers. Workers in other areas of local government were offered only a 3 per cent rise.

Council cuts were raised at First Minister’s Questions today by Labour’s James Kelly, who called on Ms Sturgeon to use extra funding for Scotland allocated in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement to inject more money into communities.

Ms Sturgeon blamed the Tories at Westminster for budget cuts.

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