The Scottish government has said it will not freeze pay rises for NHS staff following moves to halt increases south of the border.

Westminster proposals to cancel a 1 per cent rise are an attack on staff and a “betrayal” of the NHS, Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said.

The English Department of Health argues the increase is not affordable given the current NHS system of automatic incremental salary rises linked to length of service and performance.

In a submission to the independent NHS pay review body, the department proposes to spend funding set aside for the rise on the modernisation of pay structures to “maintain safe staffing levels, with stronger links to performance, quality and productivity”.

The Scottish government has made its own submission proposing a pay rise in 2014-15, Mr Neil said.

He accused his UK counterpart Jeremy Hunt of undermining the health service.

“This is nothing short of bad faith from Jeremy Hunt and a betrayal of the NHS,” Mr Neil said.

“To steal the pay rise back from workers’ hands will destabilise the NHS across the UK and damage morale.

“The Scottish government has no intention of following Jeremy Hunt and we will use our independence over the health service to block this move.

“But with UK-wide agreement to Agenda for Change - which established pay policy in the health service - this damaging right-wing approach could hit Scottish services, and under the current funding settlement could drive down Scotland’s budget in the future.

“Jeremy Hunt’s aim is clear, to undermine the publicly-owned NHS and break it up for further privatisation and American-style health insurance.

“My message to Hunt is unequivocal - Scotland rejects your politics, your attack on staff and your desire to destroy the real NHS.”

The NHS Pay Review Body makes recommendations on the remuneration of all staff paid under the Agenda for Change agreement.

Its recommendations apply to about 1.5 million staff in NHS England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Decisions on pay and how to respond to recommendations from the body are taken separately by the individual countries in the UK.

A spokeswoman for the English Department of Health said: “No decisions on changes to pay have been taken - the independent bodies will make their recommendations next year.”