RENEWED calls for powers over the minimum wage to be devolved to Scotland have followed revelations that defence chiefs are “ripping off” civilian staff.

In figures revealed under Freedom of Information laws, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that 223 civilian staff in Scotland are still being paid less than the breadline rate of £8.75 per hour.

This is despite the decision to top up soldiers’ earnings after complaints that the SNP’s new tax rates would penalise staff living in Scotland.

Earlier this year, Tory Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the pay of 8,000 military staff on more than £26,000 a year would be hiked to cancel out Scottish tax rises. Critics say the boost only increases the pay of higher-paid top brass rather than rank-and-file squaddies.

An MoD spokesperson said yesterday that the civilian staff were being paid more than the UK Government’s “living wage” of £7.83.

However, the real living wage, which is independently calculated according to the cost of living, is currently £8.75 an hour and will go up to £9 an hour next April.

The SNP have repeatedly called for powers over the minimum wage to be devolved to Scotland and for the minimum wage to be replaced by the real living wage.

“It’s a disgrace that hard-working staff are being ripped off by penny-pinching bosses at the MoD,” said SNP MSP Gordon Macdonald.

“Everybody deserves a fair day’s pay that meets the cost of living. That’s why the SNP have been strong advocates for the real living wage, rather than the Tory’s rebranded minimum wage.

“If the UK Government were at all serious about tackling the cost of living, they’d start by paying their own staff the real living wage. Their failure to do so shows exactly why powers over the minimum wage should be devolved to Scotland – to let us take the action the Tories refuse to.”

SNP MSP George Adam added: “If the Tories are so concerned with equality, why aren’t they ensuring that all MoD staff are paid the living wage? It’s one rule for the elite and another for the rest of us.”

The Westminster Government’s “living wage”was introduced in April 2016 and the rate is £7.83 per hour as of April 2018. It is based on median earnings, while the Living Wage Foundation rate is calculated according to the cost of living.

The accreditation programme in Scotland launched in April 2014. It is an initiative from The Poverty Alliance, in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation, and is funded by the Scottish Government. Small and medium-sized firms make up 75 per cent of accredited employers.