Local authorities have infuriated education advisers by making an interim pay offer of 3 per cent.
The Educational Institute of Scotland lodged a 10 per cent claim for advisers at the first meeting of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers in line with the long-standing practice of giving advisers the going rate for teachers.
John Muir, who chairs the EIS advisers' network, said that the authorities' response was "derisory and an insult". Mr Muir fears that, to save money, councils will now attempt to place advisers on non-teaching pay scales, despite the fact that they have always been drawn from the ranks of teachers.
Advisers, with music instructors and educational psychologists, were left out of the post-McCrone settlement, the first time this has happened in a teachers' award. They expect their pay and conditions to be dealt with by June in a subgroup of the national negotiating committee. But their demand is for the same as teachers,23 per cent over three years, as well as a salary and job review.
Advisers have seen their numbers depleted from a peak of around 200 to some 70 now. Their pay has been significantly eroded - from earning just above the rate for a depute head of the largest secondary schools in 1989 to between pound;3,000-pound;4,000 less by 1999. Authorities rely increasingly on seconded staff and advisers say morale has plummeted.
Tommy Doherty, an adviser in North Lanarkshire and spokesman for the Association of Educational Advisers in Scotland, said: "We have been prepared to play it cool but now the gloves are off."
The authorities' initial response was "a shabby way to treat experienced, quality staff at a time when they have suffered a significant erosion in pay levels compared with other teachers".
Mr Muir said: "It would be a real irony if advisers decided to go into school management in order to earn a better salary and then came back as secondees."