Trade union leaders are to meet Scottish Office officials today to discuss the future of pay negotiations under the Scottish Parliament.

One union official said the talks would be 'full and frank discussions about whether there should be separate pay negotiations for Scotland'.

There is concern that the talks could lead to the first cracks in the UK-wide system of pay and conditions for NHS staff.

Pat Frost, acting director of the NHS Confederation in Scotland, said: 'Clearly, the Scottish Parliament will want to use its flexibility to look at the pay system in Scotland. But we would only want that to take into account any specific issues, such as rural working, not to produce differences across the UK.

'What we do not want to see are disparities between Scotland and England which lead to staff haemorrhaging either north or south.'

Jim Devine, senior regional officer with Unison in Scotland, said: 'As of 1 July, responsibility for the pay and conditions of the workforce in the NHS fall directly under the control of the Scottish Parliament. In the short term, things will probably remain the same. But it would not surprise me if in the medium term there wasn't a change in the way in which pay is negotiated in Scotland.'

Any move away from a UK-wide system would be contrary to the proposals outlined in the Scottish Office's human resources strategy Agenda for Change.

It would also contradict statements made by former Scottish health minister Sam Galbraith, who always said that devolution would not mean separate pay for health staff in Scotland.

And there are signs that such a move does not have the support of all staff groups in Scotland.

Unison is believed to be the strongest supporter of a change to Scottish- based pay and is pushing hardest for the talks to produce something tangible - possibly in the hope that this will produce dividends for poorly paid members.

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association, which will not be at today's meeting, said: 'We support the doctors and dentists pay review body and find it very valuable in assessing pay and conditions.

'The way we are looking at it is while it is up to the Scottish Parliament to decide, we believe the current system is the one we should stick with.'

Margaret Pullen, deputy secretary of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, which will also be excluded from the talks because it is not a member of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, said: 'Because of the whole Agenda for Change line we don't believe there is a move towards separate pay negotiations for Scotland and we don't believe it would be appropriate for staff.'

One nursing source said: 'Some union leaders are stirring things about pay which most of the members do not actually want.

'We believe that most would like to continue within the UK-wide pay structure and that is certainly what Agenda for Change implies.'

A Scottish Office spokesperson said: 'I can confirm that Scottish Office officials will be meeting with members of the Scottish TUC in informal talks to discuss the progress of the UK pay talks process.

'This will be informal and there will be no official statement produced.'