Official figures show there were more than 40 sex offenders who were charged with a further sexual or violent offences in 2008/09.

Labour and the Tories said the total compared with just nine the previous year.

But the Scottish Government said the comparison is “simply not valid” and accused the opposition parties of not comparing like with like.

The latest figure was disclosed in the annual reports of Scotland’s eight regional bodies in which police, councils and other agencies share information about sex offenders.

Across Scotland a total of 2,967 registered sex offenders were living in the community and a further 798 were in jail.

Forty-four of the 2,967 were charged with a further sexual or violent offence, a proportion of one in every 68 or 1.48%.

Nearly all (2,825) offenders complied with the notification requirements of the sex offenders’ register but 136 notification requirements were breached, 47 fewer than in the previous year.

The figures are compiled from detailed reports submitted by each of Scotland’s Community Justice Authorities (CJAs), which are responsible for managing sex offenders.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “While it is clearly worrying when any sex offender re-offends, it is encouraging that the re-offending rate last year equates to one in 68 when the general re-offending rate is far higher.”

The reports by Scotland’s eight community justice authorities showed the effectiveness of joint working, he said.

“They clearly demonstrate that when sex offenders breach their conditions, it is dealt with swiftly.

“Dealing with the complex problem of sex-offending requires dedicated professionals working together to take difficult decisions in the interests of public protection.

“We must all continue to be vigilant and share information.”

But Tory spokesman John Lamont said: “There is little to smile about in these statistics.”

He said the 44 charged with a further sexual or violent offence compared with just nine the previous year, a five-fold increase.

“Since 2007, Scottish Conservatives have called for lie-detector tests for sex offenders, as part of a package of measures which also include the naming and shaming of absconded sex offenders and GPS tracking.”

Labour’s Paul Martin said: “The increase in the numbers caught reoffending is very worrying and action needs to be taken to tighten up procedures and assessments.

“Rather than pledging to do better we have the unedifying spectacle of the Justice Secretary pointing out that other offenders reoffend more that sex criminals.”

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown called the latest figures “the tip of the iceberg”.

Only one in ten recorded rape cases ever go to court and the rehabilitation in prison of sex offenders has “serious failings”, he said.

“This means the number of these criminals either registered or behind bars is much less than the number who actually commit serious crimes of this kind,” he said.

The Scottish Government said the previous year’s figure included only the more serious categories of offender.

A spokesman said this year’s figures also reflected a broader definition of serious re-offending, to match national crime-recording standard.

According to new Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPAs), sex criminals are split into three categories according to the risk they pose to the public.

In Glasgow there were 434 offenders at liberty, 410 of whom kept the authorities informed of their whereabouts.

Of the remaining 24, three were listed as “wanted” by the police and one as “missing”. Five committed another sexual or violent offence.

In the west of Scotland, there were 311 registered sex offenders living in the community and two committed more similar crimes.

There were 307 sex offenders at liberty in Lanarkshire. Fifteen were reported for breaches and four for further crimes.

There were 544 sex offenders in Lothian and Borders regions, 27 of whom failed to comply with their notification requirements. Fourteen committed a further sexual or violent offence.

In Forth Valley there were 166 criminals free, including seven who failed to notify the authorities of their whereabouts and one who committed another offence.

Deputy Chief Constable Bill Harkins of ACPOS said: “Managing offenders who pose a high risk of harm is not an exact science and the agencies are learning from each case.”