JUNIOR doctors in Scotland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action amid a dispute over pay with the Scottish Government.

BMA Scotland said that with more than 5000 junior doctors in Scotland eligible to vote, turnout was in excess of 71%.

Almost 97% of those who voted were in favour of strike action.

The number of junior doctors entitled to vote in the ballot was 5052, with 3610 taking part in the vote. Some 3499 said they wanted to strike, while 111 said they did not want to during the five-week ballot which closed on Friday.

The union said that while negotiations with the Scottish Government over pay are ongoing, BMA Scotland will use this clear mandate for strike action to push forward in its ongoing efforts to reverse the “unacceptable pay erosion” junior doctors in Scotland have suffered for more than a decade.

It said that should the Scottish Government not put forward a credible offer that the BMA believes could be put to members, junior doctors in Scotland would then begin preparations for a 72-hour walkout at dates to be confirmed in due course.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Michael Matheson on Friday said he is “disappointed” junior doctors have voted to strike and added that he will continue to do all he can to avert industrial action in NHS Scotland.

If doctors walk out, the union said, junior doctors would not provide emergency care during the strike, with NHS boards needing to arrange emergency cover.

Dr Chris Smith, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee, said: “This ballot result shows, beyond doubt, that junior doctors in Scotland have had enough.

“Years of pay erosion have seen the take home salary of a newly qualified FY1 doctor decline by 23.5% in real-terms compared to 2008, and the pay of an average registrar reduced by 23.9%.

“This is simply unacceptable, and we are no longer prepared to stand aside, feeling overworked and undervalued, while witnessing so many junior doctors seeking employment abroad or outside the NHS where our considerable skills are properly valued.

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“Investing in today’s junior doctors by paying them the salary they deserve is essentially making a down payment on the future of Scotland’s NHS – today’s junior doctors are the GPs, specialist doctors and consultants of the future. Without a serious plan to reverse pay erosion, these doctors will go on leaving Scotland’s NHS, undermining any plans to build a sustainable NHS for generations to come.”

He added: “We are not asking for huge pay increases – we are simply asking for a tangible step towards addressing the pay erosion our profession has suffered for well over a decade, combined with a clear plan for this to be reversed and restored.”

Matheson said: “I am disappointed that BMA junior doctors have voted to take industrial action, which is in no-one’s interest. I will continue to do all I can to avert industrial action in NHS Scotland.

“Negotiations to agree a pay uplift are already underway. As these negotiations are held in confidence, it would be inappropriate to offer any further details at this time.”