Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Labour spokesperson Monica Lennon.
By Democrat reporter
A row has erupted over a 3.3% pay rise for social care workers with a leading care home operator, who employs almost 1,000 people, describing the Scottish Government announcement as “spin”.
The increase was also attacked by Labour politicians who claimed care workers were still underpaid with many receiving less than £10 an hour when they are on the frontline against the coronavirus.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said that all care staff would receive at least the real living wage of £9.30 per hour at Easter Sunday’s coronavirus briefing.
The headline-grabbing increase for those on the front line of the fight against Covid-19 was one of the key points of the briefing.
But Robert Kilgour, the CEO of Renaissance Care, claimed the money was not “new” and his firm had already told staff of the wage rise more than a week before the weekend’s announcement. Ms Freeman has said the rise would be backdated to April 1.
But speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Kilgour, a Tory party donor, said: “My reading of this is that it’s pure spin, frankly, from the Scottish Government.
“It’s no new money as far as I can see. All they’ve done is announced what has been agreed on the annual pay award. It’s always done on April 1 every year.
“We wrote to our staff about this pay increase on April 3 and backdated it to March 30. It was always going to happen and was always going to be this. This is not new.”
Mr Kilgour accused the Scottish Government of trying to pass off a previous arrangement as a measure to help control coronavirus, adding: “All they’ve done is packaged and announced it as if it is new money.”
The care home boss also claimed local authorities in England were “doing more than what we’re getting in Scotland, definitely”.
Mr Kilgour added that testing for coronavirus in social care staff and residents was a “postcode lottery”.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly stated it does not routinely test people not admitted to hospital for the virus.
Labour spokeswoman Monica Lennon said care workers were still undervalued.
“Social care workers have been underpaid and undervalued for too long and there is a long way to go to secure the pay and conditions they deserve,” Ms Lennon said.
“Many of them will continue to earn under £10 an hour so the Scottish Government’s pay announcement, combined with dangerous PPE shortages and harrowing working conditions, is not a cause for celebration.”
“The care sector is the crisis within a crisis and the Scottish Government must act with urgency to protect everyone who provides and receives social care from the spread of COVID-19.”
At a daily briefing held at the Scottish Government’s headquarters in Edinburgh, the Health Secretary responded to Mr Kilgour’s allegations.
Ms Freeman that under normal circumstances workers would not have received the rise until the end of summer or early autumn because there would have been “protracted negotiations” over the settlement.
The Health Secretary said: “We took a view that it was important to meet that conclusion very quickly so that those adult care workers could see the increase as quickly as possible and near as possible to the first of April.
“It is new money in the sense that if we had not reached that agreement that is not money that we would be spending in that way.”
She added: “For any owner of a care home or provider of care who wishes to pay more than that then they are of course very welcome to do so.”
Robert Kilgour, the founder of Renaissance Care who has donated large sums to the Tories
Robert Kilgour is a successful care home entrepreneur, who has also donated large sums to the Conservative Party and campaigned against Scottish independence.
Born in Edinburgh, brought up in Fife and educated at Loretto School, he splits his time between London and Fife.
Last year it was reported that he had donated more than £200,000 to the Tories since 2010.
He founded the Scottish online right wing political think-tank Think Scotland as well as SBUK, described as the “voice of pro-Union business people operating in Scotland”.
His business career began when he was studying at Stirling University and he ran a clothing stall.
He went into the care sector in 1988, starting up Four Seasons Health Care which opened its first care home in Fife the following year.
He left the company in 2000 when it was operating 101 care homes and employing around 6,500 staff.
He went on to start Renaissance Care, which has 14 homes across Scotland, including Aberdeen and Blairgowrie, and around 950 staff.
His other business interests include Dow Investments Plc, which he founded around three decades ago. He was a co-founder and Director of video and security systems specialists, NW Security Group and was also a founder shareholder and chairman of Kingdom FM Radio, the local radio franchisee for Fife until it was sold in 2019.