Scottish unemployment rate rises by 6,000
Unemployment in Scotland rose by 6,000 in the three months to the end of January, according to new figures.
The latest labour market statistics showed the unemployment rate in Scotland was 8.7% - above the UK average of 8.4%.
Employment was said to have decreased by 11,000 from November to January.
The unemployment total, which includes those who are out of work and not eligible for benefits, was 234,000 - 18,000 higher than it was a year ago.
The figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed the number of people in employment was 2,463,000.
Despite the Scottish employment rate falling over the quarter to 70.8%, the rate was above the UK average of 70.3%.
End Quote John Swinney Finance secretary
The Chancellor needs to change course in next week's Budget, and deliver a 'Plan MacB' approach for the economy”
Meanwhile, the number of Scots claiming jobseeker's allowance rose to 142,800 in February, up by 600 on the previous month and 5,400 higher than it was a year ago.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said the figures demonstrated why the UK Chancellor George Osborne needed to take "urgent action to create jobs" in next week's UK Budget.
Mr Swinney said: "Last month, the Scottish government delivered a budget for growth - which boosts public sector capital investment, takes action to tackle unemployment and in particular youth unemployment, and enhances economic security.
"The Scottish government is using every lever currently available to us to secure new investment and create and safeguard jobs, in the face of severe cuts from Westminster.
"The Chancellor needs to change course in next week's Budget, and deliver a 'Plan MacB' approach for the economy."
The UK government's Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said the figures reflected the "challenging economic climate" and were a strong reminder that getting people into work was the top priority.
Grim news about unemployment today - linked to an intriguing insight into the changing nature of the jobs market in Scotland.
The jobless queue has lengthened because an increase in private sector employment has failed to keep pace with job cuts in the public sector.
It means that Scotland now has 22.5% public sector employment - compared with 24.2% at the outset of devolution.
In order to compare like with like, the latest figure excludes financial institutions which faced an unscheduled transfer to the public sector (and, yes, that is a euphemistic reference to RBS.)
Inevitably, this has provoked argument in the political and business spheres as to potential remedies.
He said: "We are doing all we can to get Scotland working. The UK government is laying the foundations for more sustainable growth in Scotland and creating the conditions for businesses to invest in good quality jobs."
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont accused the Scottish government of presiding over a "national unemployment crisis".
She said: "The number of people losing their jobs in Scotland under the SNP continues to grow while a complacent first minister puts all of his focus on separating us from the United Kingdom.
"The stark fact is that unemployment is up again. In the last three months another 12,000 women have lost their jobs and the gap with the rest of the UK continues to grow."
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said it was disappointing that the gap between the Scottish and UK-wide unemployment rate was widening.
"With most projections showing that unemployment in Scotland may rise further during the course of 2012 with economic growth remaining weak, it is clear that the Chancellor's focus for his budget must be on jobs and growth in the private sector," she said.
"The split between the public and private sectors in clear: last year 16,000 jobs were lost from the public sector in Scotland whereas total private sector employment increased by 7,800.
"If Scotland is to tackle the problem of growing unemployment then government must look to provide the private sector with the support it needs to boost job creation."
Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: "The best thing that can be said about these statistics is that the pace of increase in unemployment has slowed.
"A full four years after the start of the recession unemployment remains more than double pre-recession levels and there are still some 75,000 less jobs.
"There is no sign of a robust labour market recovery in 2012."