The average salary in Scotland has risen by 23% in the past five years, according to figures published today.

Research by the Bank of Scotland revealed average earnings had gone up from £23,080 in 2003 to £28,296 in 2008 - an annual increase of 4.2%. In the same period, retail prices - measured by the Retail Price Index - increased by 18%, suggesting earnings had risen by 5% in "real" terms.

Scotland recorded the joint second-highest level of growth in the UK, alongside the East Midlands, just behind London, which came out top at 24%.

Aberdeen experienced the biggest growth in earnings in the past five years, increasing by 41% to £35,959, almost double the average national rise. The city has the highest wages in Scotland. Edinburgh came second, with earnings of £33,004, while in third place was the Shetland Islands at £29,219. In Glasgow, the average salary is £28,400.

Martin Ellis, Bank of Scotland chief economist, said: "Average earnings in Scotland have risen by more than retail prices over the past five years, indicating an increase in living standards for the typical worker."

However, some observers said measuring the average salary of workers creates a distorted picture, due to the increasingly large gap between those at the top and bottom of the earnings ladder.

David Moxham, deputy head of the STUC, said the median figure - the middle point between the highest and lowest earners - is a more accurate indicator.

"Scotland has one of the highest levels of wage inequality among major developed countries. The median salary in Scotland is considerably lower than £28,000, while 23% of Scots are living on poverty pay of around £12,000 to £13,000 a year."