SCOTLAND is the zero-hours contracts capital of the UK, as research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed a record high rate.

Figures from between January and March this year showed 105,000 Scottish workers – 3.9% of the workforce – have no set working hours.

That is compared to 94,000, or 3.4%, in October to December 2022.

Scotland also has a higher rate than the UK average of 3.4% and tops England’s 3.5%, 2.8% in Wales and 1.3% in Northern Ireland.

Zero-hours contracts, also known as casual contracts, means workers are often unaware of their working hours or their pay each week.

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Industries like hospitality and health and social care are particularly reliant on the casual contracts, according to the ONS, while data also shows 25.9% of full-time students are also on zero hours.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the “grim” statistics should encourage the UK Government to devolve employment law to Holyrood to crack down on the contracts’ use.

It comes as Scotland’s unemployment rates for January to March this year increased slightly to 3.1%, compared to the record 3% recorded between December and February.

Foyer said: “This release from the ONS makes for grim reading as Scotland is crowned the worst nation in the UK for the use of zero-hours contracts.

“Reaching record levels of 105,000, employers are using these contracts to deny workers basic workplace rights, exerting control and power on workers’ terms and conditions.

“It’s an incredibly damning indictment of the UK Government and their chronic handling of the economy that so many must turn to zero hours to make ends meet.”

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She added: “Now more than ever, Scotland needs the devolution of employment law to outlaw, once and for all, the use of zero-hours contracts, giving workers security, certainly and workplace rights from day one of their employment.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Zero Hours Justice campaign group said the contracts were a “stain on our economy”, adding: “UK and Scottish ministers must take action to end the use of these exploitative contracts that are causing misery for over 100,000 Scottish workers.”

Chris Stephens, the SNP MP for Glasgow South West, backed Foyer's calls for employment law to be devolved to Scotland as a way to crack down on the "exploitative" contracts. 

He said: "The SNP has consistently called for the full devolution of employment law so we can take these powers out of the hands of the Tories whose track record on workers' rights is abysmal.

“Additionally, my workers' rights bill, if passed, will effectively ban zero-hours contracts, permitting them only with the signed collective agreement from a recognised trade union.

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“Had pro-Brexit Labour and the Tories not blocked the delivery of employment powers to Holyrood we could have already worked to tackle poverty and low-paid work by ending exploitative working contracts in Scotland.

“As with so many other issues though, the reluctance of the Westminster establishment parties to implement progressive policy has shown why we can only make real, positive, change in these areas with the full powers of independence.”

And Alba said that public authorities such as councils should reject zero-hours contracts. 

Chris McEleny, the party's general secretary, said: "There is no place for exploitative zero-hours contracts in Scotland. Where we have the power over the contracts that are handed out we should act.

"When I was a member of Inverclyde Council I banned zero-hours contracts. 

"Insecure and low-paid work are the heart of many of the problems we currently see in the health and social care system.

"Their use is incompatible with the Scottish Government’s commitment to ‘fair work’. And it is within the gift of the Scottish Government, and local Councils that award the work, to ensure the use of zero-hours contracts are banned.

"However, employment laws are controlled by the Tories at Westminster so the only way to ensure that we have fair employment laws that match the aspirations of the Scottish Parliament is for Scotland to become independent and take those powers into our own hands.”