HUNDREDS of teacher posts across Scotland remain unfilled as schools open their gates for the new academic year.

Research by The Herald has revealed more than 500 teacher vacancies at primaries and secondaries across Scotland in the week pupils return after the summer holidays.

Councils facing some of the most acute shortages include those in the North East such as Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray which have struggled to recruit in the past few years. Highland, Glasgow and Edinburgh also have high numbers of unfilled vacancies.

Teacher recruitment has emerged as a significant issue across Scotland with shortages in key subject areas such as science and computing as well as in rural areas.

As a result the Scottish Government has proposed a number of controversial fast-track teach training options to get new staff into schools more quickly.

However, teaching unions argue the main problem is pay and conditions with the increasing workload of staff putting off recruits at a time when salaries have declined in real terms.

A spokesman for council umbrella body Cosla said the issue of recruiting teachers had been problematic for a number of years and remained so.

He said: "Councils do their best to attract teaching talent to their area with many offering incentives, but there is no magic wand that can be waved as our young people return to their classrooms over the coming days.

"This is a long-term problem that will require a long term solution - especially for those councils who have real issues with recruitment."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said the vacancy figures were a clear cause of concern.

He said: "The situation highlights the need for a concerted effort to attract a greater number of qualified teachers into Scotland’s classrooms.

"If we are to ensure equity of provision across the country and address the poverty-related attainment gap, then it is essential that our schools are fully staffed.

"As we have repeatedly highlighted, making teaching an attractive career option will require greater action to reduce excessive teacher workload and a significant improvement in teachers’ pay and conditions."

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called for a review of teachers' pay and working conditions.

He said: “Headteachers face classrooms without teaching staff as pupils go back to school.

"We need a government who recognise that their management of Scottish education over 10 years has made teaching less attractive as a profession.

"Teachers say classroom workload pressures are rising. Instead of centralisation and bureaucracy, the Scottish Government needs to invest in the profession and make it a job people want."

Of the 32 councils contacted by The Herald a total of 21 responded directly with 462 teaching vacancies split evenly between primary and secondary. The remaining councils are advertising around 80 jobs for teaching staff in primary and secondary on the website My Job Scotland.

Last year, research by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed a similar figure with some 572 vacancies remaining unfilled at the beginning of the 2016 school year.

Earlier this year Mr Swinney said cuts in the number of teacher training places in Scotland “probably” went too far.

The Education Secretary said that with hindsight, the target intake for student teachers was “probably over-corrected too far” in 2011. In 2005/06, before the SNP came to power, the target number was 4,437, but it then went from 3,857 in 2009/10 to 2,307 in 2010/11, a drop of 1,550 places. Since then, numbers have risen again to stand at 3,706 in 2016/17.