Deputy first minister John Swinney addresses the Scottish Parliament surrounded by MSPs.

Claim SNP MSPs froze their pay at 2008 levels is Half True

The wages of parliamentarians are always a controversial issue, and Ferret Fact Service has looked at claims around MPs pay and expenses before. 

One claim which was shared thousands of  times on Facebook concerns SNP politicians in the Scottish parliament. 

Since 2008, all SNP MSPs have observed a self-imposed pay freeze. Each month when they get their wages, they calculate the difference between their current wage and the wage they would have had back in 2008. Then they give the difference back to the public purse to help fund public services.

Facebook claim saying "Since 2008, all SNP MSPs have observed a self-imposed pay freeze. Each month when they get their wages, they calculate the difference between their current wage and the wage they would have had back in 2008. Then they give the difference back to the public purse to help fund public services."

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Half True

Claim SNP MSPs froze their pay at 2008 levels is Half True 3

Evidence

MSP salaries are set by the Scottish parliament, with their latest annual pay rising to £66,662 from 1 April 2022, an increase of £2,192 from 2020. 

Salaries have traditionally been linked to those for MPs at Westminster, with MSPs receiving 87.5 per cent of their UK counterparts’ wages. However, in 2021 this link was broken as MSPs pay was frozen during the Covid-19 pandemic. Future pay increases were to be linked instead to “those of public sector workers in Scotland”.

On top of their basic salaries as MSPs, elected members get an additional salary if they have a formal role in government or parliament. 

These paid roles include the first minister, government ministers, the presiding officer, the lord advocate, and solicitor general.

Since 1 April 2009, Scottish ministers, including the first minister, have voluntarily had their salaries frozen. Their actual pay remains at 2008-09 levels, and the difference between that and current Scottish Parliament recommended entitlements is given to the Scottish Government for public spending. 

For example, Nicola Sturgeon’s salary entitlement – first minister’s wage plus MSP wage – would be £163,229, but her actual pay due to the freeze is £135,605.

Their MSP salaries are not part of the freeze and are increased as agreed by the Scottish parliament.

According to a 2022 Freedom of Information request response, £1,167,573 due to Scottish Government ministers has instead been made available for public spending as of 31 March 2021.

However, this was not extended to all MSPs, with then first minister Alex Salmond saying in 2009: “That is a decision for individual MSPs”. 

The SNP confirmed to Ferret Fact Service that the SNP Scottish Government pay freeze only applies to serving ministers and cabinet secretaries.

There are 64 SNP MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, and 25 (39 per cent) of them have ministerial positions and are part of the Scottish Government pay freeze. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True 

There is no pay freeze among SNP MSPs in general. Scottish Government ministers and cabinet secretaries have observed a pay freeze since 2009, with the difference between their salary entitlement and their 2008-09 wage given back to the Scottish Government for public spending. 

This claim is half true.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Go to community.theferret.scot, email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

Correction: This fact check has been updated to clarify that the pay amounts mentioned refer to gross, not take home pay.

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