Seven of the ten local authorities with the highest percentage of public sector workers are north of the Border.
Orkney topped the chart for Scotland and is the second highest in the UK, with 48 per cent, according to the figures for last year from the Office of National Statistics. The Western Isles came third overall in the UK, with 44.8 per cent of employees working in the public sector, and the Shetland islands sixth, with 40.8 per cent. West Dunbartonshire was ninth with 39.9 per cent and Argyll & Bute was tenth with 40 per cent.
The figures also revealed the reliance on public sector jobs in Scotland’s cities. Dundee topped the list with 35 per cent of workers employed by the state, followed by Edinburgh with 30.5 per cent. Glasgow, with its large retail and commercial sector, had 24.9 per cent. Aberdeen, with its burgeoning energy industry, has just 19.9 per cent and Aberdeenshire had the fewest workers employed by the public sector in Scotland, with just 19.6 per cent.
The City of London had the lowest in the UK with 5.8 per cent and the commuter county of South Bucks was the second lowest with 6.7. The UK average was 23 per cent.
The figures will raise new questions about Scotland’s dependence on the public sector for jobs at a time of cutbacks in public funding. But Stephen Low, a policy officer for Unison, insisted Scotland was not over-reliant on the public sector, and said investing in these services provides stability in fragile economies.
“Scotland needs public services – without these the private sector couldn’t function” he said. “Running down public services would only depress demand.”
David Kennedy, spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said the government should recognise the contribution the public sector makes to communities like Orkney. He said: “The UK government is wrong to talk about an over-reliance because if it wasn’t for the public sector there would be far fewer jobs in these areas.”
Labour finance spokesman Richard Baker MSP said claims by the UK government that the private sector would take the place of the public sector have not come to fruition.