A Labour MSP has called for an audit of senior staff's pay at Scottish universities after denouncing the rises seen in recent years as "truly staggering".
Hugh Henry, MSP for Paisley South, called on Audit Scotland to investigate executive salaries after it emerged that the take-home pay of one institution's director rose by 18 per cent this year. The Scottish media also reported that a 12-strong group of higher education officials are paid more than £200,000 a year.
Seona Reid, director of the Glasgow School of Art, has seen her income for 2008-09 swell following the payment of a lump sum owed to her on top of an annual 5 per cent increase. According to the school's audited accounts, she earned £117,000 including benefits in 2007-08, so can expect to take home £138,000 in 2008-09.
David Belsey, higher education policy officer at the Educational Institute of Scotland union, said it was "unfortunate" that the increase - albeit a one-off - had coincided with redundancies at the school and the battle to improve on a 0.5 per cent pay deal for academic staff.
He said the union wanted institutions "to prioritise eliminating compulsory redundancies over large pay rises for senior staff".
A spokeswoman for the school said the rise was a result of a back payment relating to a salary increase in 2006, following the introduction of the National Pay Framework.
"Senior staff agreed to spread the cost by taking only a partial backdating at that time and deferring the balance," she said. "The director has received no increase other than nationally agreed cost-of-living pay awards since the increase, effective from 1 August 2006.
"In 2008-09, she received the same 5 per cent pay award as the rest of the school's staff, plus the balance remaining on backdated pay from 1 August 2006."
While the school's accounts for 2008-09 will record an 18 per cent rise in Professor Reid's salary, its 2009-10 accounts will show a 9 per cent drop if the 0.5 per cent deal is agreed, the spokeswoman added.
Audit Scotland declined to comment on whether it would act on the call for an inquiry.