Scottish unions have warned that they will hold out for higher pay for staff at particularly busy hospitals over the millennium holiday, whatever the outcome of trust-wide negotiations.

Unison has said it will be seeking a top-up for staff at hospitals such as Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and State Hospital, Carstairs. It says that if this is not forthcoming staff will not volunteer to cover the millennium Hogmanay.

Tom Waterson, Unison steward at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, said: 'Once there is a national offer on the table, we expect local top-ups to be offered.

'The hospitals need staff to volunteer to work these shifts, so staff have considerable power to wield. Unison will be pressing hard for these top-ups to be implemented regardless of the offer being made at a national level.'

A meeting was held last week between trusts' negotiator Alan Boyter, director of personnel at North Glasgow Universities Acute Hospitals trust, and the main health unions.

Among the points already agreed are that staff will be offered a range of choices, from taking time off in lieu for all the hours worked to taking a cash bonus and no time off. Staff who are on call will also be eligible for bonuses.

An offer is expected within the next fortnight. A spokesperson for the Scottish Office emphasised that it would not be a national agreement, but a 'trust-wide' agreement negotiated collectively by Mr Boyter. Any additional cost must come from existing trust budgets.

In Northern Ireland, employers have offered to pay bonuses of£170 for new year's eve working and£85 for 1 January.

The offer is higher than the£150/£75 offer made in English NHS regions, including London and the West Midlands where there are greater staffing problems.

It is being put to union members in a consultative ballot, which recommends it as the 'best that can be achieved by negotiation'.

English unions claim the offer will lead to renewed demands for higher pay in more pressed areas. Unison national officer Steve Weeks said: 'It highlights the fact that the offer in London in particular is totally inadequate and does not reflect the pressure on staffing.'

But NHS Confederation chair of human resources Andrew Foster claimed that staff were 'queueing up' to work at the millennium, because of the deals on offer from trusts.

Unison is reviewing whether to go ahead with a ballot on industrial action in November, as demanded at its annual health conference in April.