A doctor turned politician has signalled the Scottish Nationalists’ determination to end the practice of financial bonuses for top NHS consultants.

Former GP Dr Ian McKee said: “The days of stuffing the mouths of consultants with gold in Scotland are drawing to an end.”

Dr McKee said the party eventually wants to scrap the bonus scheme - which rewards 500 Scottish consultants with a share of £28m a year - or replace it with something more equitable that benefits more NHS staff.

The Scottish government will freeze consultants’ bonuses, saving £2m for other uses in the NHS.

Dr McKee told the SNP’s spring conference in Aviemore that such cutbacks were necessary to ensure in the “rough financial times ahead” that “any pain is spread” and cuts are not weathered by lower paid employees.

Dr McKee said that although successive health ministers in Scotland and the UK have long recognised the “inequity of the scheme” they have “turned a blind eye, fearing the wrath of consultants and the British Medical Association”.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has written to her counterparts in the UK suggesting they follow Scotland’s lead in reviewing the bonus scheme.

The move follows the government’s decision to freeze the pay of ministers and senior public sector workers.