Deputy First Minister John Swinney has hailed the rising number of women in work as a "real success story" over the last 12 months.

The latest official statistics showed that female employment in Scotland has increased by 46,000 over the year to reach a record level of 1,288,000.

At the same time, the number of women claiming jobseeker's allowance has fallen by 8,900 over the year, and at 27,900 is now at the lowest total since February 2009.

Figures for the period August to October 2014 showed 71.4 per cent of women in Scotland were working, compared to 68.1 per cent across the UK as a whole.

Mr Swinney also said the gender gap between male and female employment rates had narrowed much more in Scotland over the last two years than across the UK.

The male employment rate north of the border is 5.5 points higher than the female rate, the latest figures showed, compared to 9.1 points in the period August to October 2012.

But in the UK the gap has gone from 10.3 points two years ago to 9.7 points in August to October 2014.

Mr Swinney said: "2014 has seen Scotland consistently outperform the UK on employment, unemployment and inactivity rates, and Scotland's economy continues to go from strength to strength.

"A real success story over the last year is increasing female participation and the narrowing gender gap in employment rates.

"Over the last two years, the gap between male and female employment rates has narrowed in Scotland, unlike the UK - with the gap closing by 3.6 percentage points in Scotland."

Scottish Labour finance, constitution and economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said: "If the Scottish Government were serious about tackling inequalities they would not have voted against the living wage five times in 2014.

"Over a quarter of a million women in Scotland are paid less than the living wage and yet when Scottish Labour proposed extending the living wage to more low paid jobs and banning zero hour contracts the SNP voted with the Tories to block it.

"In May Scots have the chance to vote for a UK Labour government which will ban exploitative zero hour contracts, raise the minimum wage, and offer a jobs guarantee to our young people. Only Labour can kick David Cameron out of Number 10 and deliver a fairer economy for women."