The total of Scots out of work increased by 25,000 to 239,000 between May and July this year. Scotland’s unemployment rate is now 8.9 per cent compared to 7.8 per cent across Britain as a whole.
Public sector employment figures, also published, showed the number of teachers in Scotland has plummeted to an eight-year low, but Alex Salmond has continued to employ more civil servants in the wake of the recession.
The Tories argued Scotland’s high unemployment shows ministers must start tackling the scale of the country’s huge public sector, which economists say acts as a drag on recovery.
Annabel Goldie, Scottish Conservative leader, said: “The SNP had promised to slim down government but these figures tell a different story.
“As we come out of recession we will be unable to afford such large numbers of civil servants if we are to deal with the reduction in public sector spending while protecting front line public services.”
Jeremy Purvis, Scottish Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, added: “These figures are genuinely worrying, but frankly the Scottish government has to explain why they are very much worse in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.”
Overall unemployment, which includes those who are out of work but not eligible for benefits, is now 49,000 higher than the same period last year.
More than 600,000 people are employed by the state north of the Border, according to the figures, including more than half a million who work for devolved bodies.
But the size of the devolved state has fallen only 0.6 per cent over the past year compared to 4.6 per cent for bodies controlled by Westminster.
The fall in the Scottish public sector is mostly thanks to councils laying off 4,200 staff over the past year. The number of teachers has fallen by more than 2,000 in the last year alone and by almost 3,000 since the SNP took power in 2007.
Des McNulty, Scottish Labour education spokesman, said the fall showed the “complete failure” of Mr Salmond’s education policy, which had promised to cut class sizes by maintaining teacher numbers.
However, the number of devolved civil servants has soared by 200 to a record 17,700 over the past year, even as tens of thousands of Scots in the private sector were losing their jobs.
This is partly thanks to staff from police forces transferring to Disclosure Scotland, a quango that checks the criminal records of people working with the vulnerable, and from the District Court to the Scottish Court Services.
Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, blamed Gordon Brown’s Government for the rising jobless total.
He said: “These figures show the heavy human price that Scotland is paying for the last government’s economic incompetence.
“The Coalition inherited rising unemployment and a record peacetime deficit, and our challenge is to turn those problems around.”
But Jim Mather, SNP Enterprise Minister, said: “The very unwelcome rise in unemployment highlights that recovery is fragile and is threatened by UK Government spending cuts that are too quick and too deep.”