NEW research has shown that only 10 of Scotland’s 50 biggest employers pay their workers the living wage.

Some defended their decision, insisting they had other benefits for staff such as discount cards and share schemes and made clear that they paid at least the national minimum wage.

Among the 10 Scottish firms who said their pay policy was in line with the Living Wage Foundation’s definition of a living wage employer were Royal Bank of Scotland, John Wood Group, Standard Life, SSE and Scottish Water.

Those who are not a living wage employer under the terms agreed by the Living Wage Foundation included Wm Morrison, Co-operative Group, FirstGroup, BT Scotland and Marks & Spencer, along with a number of local councils and charities.

The living wage is an hourly rate calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. At £7.85 an hour, it is 21 per cent higher than the legally-set minimum wage of £6.50.

Being an official living wage employer requires that companies change all contracts, such as those with cleaning and security firms, to ensure any staff working regularly on their premises are paid the living wage, not just their directly-employed workers.

The information was obtained in a BBC survey which revealed that around 200 organisations in Scotland are accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

One of the biggest is accountancy firm KPMG. Jenny Stewart, its head of infrastructure and government, insisted it was the right thing to do as a company. She said now the living wage was established it was not costing a penny more, and that employees and employer both benefited from paying the living wage.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, said more had to be done to ensure people were not stuck on low pay for life.

She said: “There is a kind of ‘no pay, low pay’ trap that people get caught up in, a sort of cycle.

“At Scottish Government level, we don’t have the kind of specific powers that we need to have over things like the minimum wage in order to effect concrete change through government measures.

“However, what we are doing, I think quite effectively, is using the ‘soft power’ of government to encourage and cajole employers who are still not quite there yet in their thinking, to realising the enormous benefit of paying their staff a living wage.

“We know from studies that it does result in increased productivity, much reduced staff turnover and a general much better feeling in the workplace.”

The living wage has been adopted by more than 1,000 employers across the UK.

However, the Confederation of British Industry, which represents employers, has warned of job losses if companies were required to pay the living wage.

It said: “Rather than requiring firms to introduce pay rises that many cannot afford, we must look at ways to raise living standards sustainably.”

The research also showed that most Scottish Premiership football clubs were paying some of their off-pitch staff less than the living wage.