Talks aimed at preventing a strike by Scottish Water workers went into the early hours of Thursday, the First Minister has revealed.

Humza Yousaf said he hopes industrial action, which is scheduled to begin at midnight on Friday, can “be averted even at this last hour”.

He told MSPs that his understanding is pay negotiations linked to the dispute are ongoing.

His comments came as he was challenged during First Minister’s Questions on the bonuses paid to executives at the publicly-owned utility.

Labour’s Pauline McNeill raised reports that three senior staff members had received almost £1.1 million in bonuses in 2021, claiming this was “in excess of public sector pay rules”.

Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf said bonuses paid to Scottish Water executives are in line with public sector pay rules (Jane Barlow/PA)

She told the First Minister the “same executives are withholding a pay rise from their workers unless the staff accept a new pay structure”.

Mr Yousaf told her the bonuses were “in line with public sector pay rules” and help Scottish Water “attract and retain highly experienced personnel to run a vital public service”.

Regarding workers’ pay, he said the Scottish Government “has a very strong track record of ensuring workers are paid fairly”.

His comments came ahead of a planned walkout by Scottish Water workers who are members of the Unite, Unison and GMB trade unions.

The strike action – which is currently set to run for 48 days over a period of three months – comes amid a row over pay and grading.

The first stoppage is scheduled to last for four days from Friday.

Unison regional organiser Emma Phillips said: “Scottish Water truly are a rogue employer.

“Our strong ballot result shows the strength of feeling among our members, who have overwhelmingly rejected the employer’s slapdash proposals.

“Despite this, Scottish Water are insisting they are still going to implement the changes to employment contracts and pay structures.”

Patricia McArthur, the union’s branch secretary at Scottish Water, added: “Strike action is always a last resort, but Scottish Water managers are imposing a new pay structure with no involvement from staff, which is not acceptable.”

GMB Scotland organiser Claire Greer said: “It is impossible to underestimate how ineptly the company has handled what should have been a straightforward negotiation.

“It has managed to infuriate a committed workforce and drive them to strike action, when the dispute could have easily been resolved months ago.

“Scottish Water has repeatedly been given a clear choice between doing the right thing and making the situation worse, and has taken the wrong decision every single time.

“Its actions over the last six months are a template for how to demoralise staff and demolish industrial relations.

“The priority is to resolve this dispute, but then lessons must be learned.”

Scottish Water has been contacted for comment.