Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) recently agreed a 7% pay increase for all officers for 2023. In this blog I cover what that means across the ranks of Police Scotland, how that compares with the 7% (and more) increase for England and Wales officers, and share the new police officer salary point scale in Scotland.

Police Scotland Pay Increase: What Was Agreed

Last week the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) announced it had reached an agreed pay deal for all Police Scotland officers. As usual, negotiations took place between the Official Side (Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland, and the Scottish Government) and the Staff Side (SPF, Association of Scottish Police Superintendents [ASPS], and the Scottish Chief Police Officers Staff Association [SCPOSA]). So all parties were duly represented.

The agreement can be summarised as follows:

  • 7% increase to all pay points for all ranks.
  • 7% increase also to all but one of the allowances.

Being backdated to April 2023 will serve as a bonus boost in the September salaries, with six month’s increase coming all at once. That’ll be over £1,300 gross for an average PC on 5 years’ service, then over £200 per month thereafter.

Police Scotland salary 2023-2024

The above GIF demonstrates the change for the Federated ranks, from the current salary to the new 2023/24 officer salary. The increase is clear, particularly for those among the higher ranks. New joiners will now start on £30k basic (aside from other allowances and the potentially-lucrative overtime), rising to £48k within 10 years.

A Mixed Reception…

The 7% figure seemed inevitable, given that officers south of the border had recently reached the same increase for 2023/24. In addition, the fact that the amount will be backdated for 6 months makes it actually seem a slightly better deal than England and Wales officers.

However, the reception was mixed among many rank and file officers. The agreement has brought out vociferous critics of the SPF in particular, for not achieving the 8.5% they set out for. On the face of it, the shortfall seems less when compared to that sought by their England and Wales Federation counterparts in negotiations there (17.5%).

However, it seems the SPF’s staunch communications about the importance of the 8.5% shortly before then agreeing the 7% has been seen as a sort of capitulation among many frustrated rank and file. These are officers who are already under strain, given that police numbers in Scotland are at their lowest for over a decade, with salary cited as a reason for the wastage.

The criticisms of the SPF were so frequent, they published a dedicated set of answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ on the matter. Frequent questions raised included:

  • Why didn’t you hold out for the 8.5%?
  • Why weren’t members offered a vote on the offer?
  • Why don’t we seek the right for officers to strike?

On the strike point, it may be worth noting that seeking such rights may be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, noting that with the existing restrictions comes the associated benefit that officers are not exposed to redundancy.

For civilian staff in Scotland, negotiations are ongoing. However, 7% again seems the most obvious outcome. Not least owing to the precedent of what officers have received, and that Police Staff in England and Wales have also agreed a 7% pay increase. The reception among union members south of the border was almost unanimous, with members voting 95% in favour of the deal. But again, the reception in Police Scotland seems more averse to 7%, with reports that unions are urging their members to reject the offer and strike.

Those who control the purse strings of Police Scotland appear to already be wincing at the cost to implement. Recent reports of selective crime investigation to deal with budget shortfalls given to the force by the Scottish Government may soon seem less significant, as the force now seeks to find the extra £100 million or so to fund the 7% rise in officer pay and associated on-costs.

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Two Pay Rises a Year

It’s worth remembering that this 7% pay increase applies to the police officer pay scale itself. The fact that officers are paid on a scale with increments each year means that the rise to the pay scale is just one of two they’ll receive in that year. Not to mention the clear benefits of promotion

The other increase comes with each year of service, as officers move up through each point through their pay scale, until reaching the top. This means that it’s the most experienced officers, those already at the top of their pay scale, who are reliant on the (generally below-inflation) increases negotiated in this way.

Scotland police pay by year

Take for example the journey of those officers who joined in 2019/20. As shown in the graph tracking their basic salary above, at that point the starting officer salary in Scotland was £26.0k. While there was a pay freeze to the scale itself in 2020/21, they moved up an increment after 1 year to £28.4k. The combination of a £700 pay scale increase and the next rung saw them to £31.4k after 2 years since joining. Their salary is now at £38.6k following annual increments and pay scale rises for this year and last, nearly 50% more than when they joined.

This salary will increase each year to the top-of-PC scale (currently now £48.2k), regardless of what then gets negotiated as an increase to the pay scale itself. These double annual increments are one reason why policing remains an attractive career to many new joiners, who have an eye on longer-term security.

Only those who stay at the top of the pay scale, and who don’t seek promotion, will see only one increase (or a freeze!) to their salary each year, aligned to whatever results from these PNB agreements.

7% Pay Increase: A Fair Cop?

Scotland police salary 2023 - 2024

In my recent 2023/24 police salary blog for England & Wales officers, I outlined the fairness (or otherwise) of the recent pay award. But is the same amount fair for Police Scotland officers? Many of the same points apply, so I’ll take a more summarised approach here.

Compared to the average salary, that for police officers remains favourable, now exceeding it within a year of service. At the top of the pay scale at the rank of PC, after 11 years’ service, officers earn over £1,000 per month more than the national average at £48.2k.

This 7% increase will also move far more officers into the higher-rate Scottish tax bracket. Taxes are higher in Scotland for middle- and higher-earners, with any earnings over £44k taxed at 42%. This pay rise therefore means experienced PCs are considered higher earners, and are pushed into the 42% tax bracket, along with all the ranks above. So while the top end PC salary at £48k is now a couple of thousand above their England and Wales (and soon enough, PSNI) counterparts, the take home will be half that.

Compared to the cost of living, it’s slightly below the 9% inflation. This therefore leaves officers at the top of their pay scale with a 2% deficit in their typical ‘standard of living’, as they only receive this one increase moving from £45.1k to £48.2k.

As indicated in the JNB circular, the offer matches increases referenced for other public sector workers over the last two years, at over 12%. This combines the 5% increase to pay scales applied in 2022, plus this year’s additional 7%. Though the increase does fall short of the 14% in the same period applied to the pay scales of some other public sector professions. 

Giving a flat rate across the board is a regressive way of applying salary changes. It vastly favours those already on the higher salaries compared to new joiners and those toward the lower end of the scale. It doesn’t appear that the SPF sought to negotiate a more ‘targeted to need’ approach, which could easily be done within the same financial envelope.

This means that the financial benefits of the raise for the more senior ranks become far higher than the more junior end. For example, 7% for a new joiner equates to nearly £2,000, but for an ACC it bumps things up by £9,000, widening the gap between the higher- and lower-paid ranks. Further, and unlike the agreement for England and Wales, there was no mechanism to bump the rate higher than 7% for those on the very first rung of PC.

So in summary, it seems a mixed bag. It’s comparable to the increases seen elsewhere and it remains a favourable salary compared to other sectors. However, it’s slightly behind the cost of living increase for those already at the top of their pay scale, there’s been much criticism by Federation members, and the flat rate percentage applied to all ranks is an entirely regressive approach.

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The Value of Promotion

Increased salary and associated pension is just one of the many reasons officers seek promotion. Rank Success has helped countless officers raise their income and in turn, added many £millions to officer pension pots around the country. That’s why for most cops, the investment is a no-brainer: Invest in yourself and your CPD today, thank yourself later!

SERGEANTS: In Police Scotland, the salary for a new Sergeant moves from £45.8k to £49.1k. So if you’re a PC with a solid six years’ experience under your belt, and wanting to make the move to this first rung of police leadership, you’ll see an immediate increase of £8,000 per year in salary upon your success. After tax, you’ll get back your personal investment in your first month’s pay packet alone!

The top rate for a Sergeant with 4 years’ service has increased from £50.4k to £53.9k. Here’s that comparison again for the Federated ranks, both before and after this 7% increase has been applied…

Scotland police salary 2023
Scotland police salary 2023 - 2024

INSPECTORS: The step up to the more strategic rank of Inspector moves up to a starting salary of £59.6k, from £55.7k before the 7% took effect. The annual increments will now take this to £66.1k within 4 years, aside from whatever PNB pay rises are negotiated and applied to the police officer pay scale.

CHIEF INSPECTOR: Promotion to Chief Inspector isn’t for the faint-hearted. Read my blog ‘Step Up or Step Aside for more on this! The salary range for this middle-management position will now be £67.2k – £71.6k. The starting rate is only a modest increase from a top-rate Inspector, however I describe this rank as a gateway to Superintendent… 

SUPERINTENDENT to CHIEF OFFICERS: In case you’re interested, the starting salary for Superintendents will now be £79.1k (up from £74.0k for 2022/23), rising to £93.3k within 3 years (previously £87.2k). Chief Superintendents will now start at £97.9k, within 2 years rising to £103.2k, the first time this rank has breached the £100k mark.

Here’s the new salaries for 2023/24 following this 7% pay increase for Police Scotland’s Chief Officers:

  • Assistant Chief Constable: £139.9k (was £130.7k, +£9.1k)
  • Deputy Chief Constable: £203.7k (was £190.4k, +£13.3k)
  • Chief Constable: £248.7k (was £232.5k, +£16.3k)

This puts the Chief Constable of Police Scotland £61k behind the salary of the Met Police Commissioner, but £32k ahead of the Chiefs of both GMP and West Mids.

Police officer salaries can be a contentious subject! But I hope you’ve found this objective assessment helpful to understanding the lay of the land for 2023/24 and maybe for your onward police career decisions. Let me know in the comments what you think of these Police Scotland changes and whether it seems fair to you, given the unique challenges of the job.

See my dedicated salary webpage to stay abreast of all the latest police pay information across the UK in an easy read format. Watch this space, my free podcast, and my free YouTube channel for more on leadership, promotion and career progression support.

If you seriously want to hit the ground running, see my structured support and bundles for PC to SGT and SGT to INS / INS to C.INS promotion at my website. There’s also still a couple of places left at my exclusive promotion masterclass on 30 September in Birmingham if you’d prefer the experience of my tried and tested in-person events.

Kind Regards, Steve

Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuidesa podcast.

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