NHS boards in Scotland have been asked to draw up contingency plans in case junior doctors go on strike, the Health Secretary said.

Michael Matheson told MSPs he is doing “everything in my power” to avoid a junior doctors’ strike, which he said would be “very disruptive” after they voted last week in favour of their first national walkout over pay.

Some 71% of the eligible 5000 junior doctors voted in the ballot, with 97% backing BMA Scotland’s strike action.

Matheson has already said their demand for a 23.5% pay increase on top of inflation – taking the total rise to around 35% – is “simply unaffordable”.

Answering questions at Holyrood, the Health Secretary said confidential talks with the BMA are progressing, with the next meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

He said he recognised the “strength of feeling” among junior doctors and added: “I want NHS Scotland to be a place of choice for junior doctors in working through their career.

“I will be doing everything in my power to try and help to avert the risk of industrial action by junior doctors in NHS Scotland.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked him about contingency plans which would be put in place if the strike goes ahead.

The Health Secretary said: “I’ve already asked health boards to put contingency plans in place, should we be in a situation where unfortunately industrial action does take place because it will be very disruptive.

“The nature of what those contingency plans will be is dependent upon any derogations which have been agreed with the junior doctors’ committee.”