SOME of Scotland's most affluent and rural areas are bearing the brunt of a coronavirus jobs pandemic - with unemployment benefit claimants trebling in some parts of the country during lockdown.

New data revealing for the first time the scale of job losses and furloughing that has brought the country to its knees during lockdown shows that nearly one in three are out of work.

It reveals that some of Scotland's more affluent areas with historically lower levels of deprivation have seen the biggest rises in the numbers claiming either Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC) - being hit up to five times harder than those areas that are less well off.

At least 843,240 Scots are now either claiming unemployment benefits or have been furloughed under the government's job retention scheme - that is nearly a third of the population who are available for work.

The new data covering the three months from February 13, produced by Jobcentre Plus and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, shows that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has at least doubled in 22 out of the 73 Scottish Parliamentary constituencies.

Some of the worst affected areas - are those which are reliant on the tourism and hospitality sector which has been crippled by the lockdown restrictions.

READ MORE: 'Alarm bells' as Scotland's unemployment rate becomes highest of UK nations

The cuts are no respecter of wealth, with Edinburgh Southern the constituency of mainly leafy Victorian town-housing based around the suburbs of Newington, Morningside, Craiglockhart, Blackford and Merchiston the nation's claimant rate rise hotspot, with the number claiming benefits more than trebling (204.6%).

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency of finance secretary Kate Forbes, that is heavily reliant on tourism, came a close second with a 187.3% rise in claimants over the three months.

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Claire Telfer (above), head of Scotland at Save the Children fears the worst may yet be to come.

“These figures highlight that the pandemic ‘nightmare’ is far from over and the financial impacts of the crisis are being felt acutely by families across many parts of the country. We’ve seen huge increases in families claiming social security support, piling financial pressures on families who can least afford it. Parents are struggling to make ends meet and are already cutting back on food and essentials," she said.

"As the job retention scheme tapers off, we fear further unemployment and hardship ahead. Social security should be an anchor in stormy times, putting more money in families’ pockets."

It comes as research by Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that seven in ten of Scotland's poorest families have had to cut back on food and other essentials while half have had to borrow money to get through the coronavirus lockdown.

More than half of families on Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit in Scotland have been pushed to borrow money since start of crisis – with many relying on expensive forms of credit.

Ms Telfer added that they are calling on the UK Government to provide a lifeline for children by increasing the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits by £20 per week. They are also calling on the Scottish Government and councils to provide a "dignified, cash-first approach" to free school meals over the summer holidays.

Across Scotland the claimant count has soared by 86% from 115,675 to 215,240.

Eastwood, which had the lowest levels of unemployment on the Scottish mainland saw numbers rise by two-and-three-quarters (174.5%) - the third highest of all 72 constituencies.

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The analysis also reveals that the region with the smallest rise in claimants at just 39.4% is an area with already high levels of unemployment - Greenock and Inverclyde. In 2019, the Inverclyde council area was rated as the most deprived in Scotland by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), with Greenock Town Centre the most deprived community.

And there is an east-west divide in terms of the effect of Covid-19 unemployment, with the six Edinburgh constituencies seeing a rise in claimants typically running at two-and-a-half times over the three months - about half the rate in Glasgow which has seen a 78% increase.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress said it feared a disproportionate unemployment hit to fall on young people going forward with the October end of the furlough scheme presenting a "cliff edge" with government either forced to accept very high employment or to act to invest in jobs.

“The spike in unemployment and the impending furlough cliff edge underline the fragility of the Scottish economy with its high reliance on the service sector. The coronavirus crisis has been layered on to an economic system that wasn’t working. Large parts of Scotland have never recovered from industrial decline, relying on out-of-town shopping centres to inflate a local economy built on consumer debt, while other parts are dependent on the low-waged tourism and hospitality sector which is unlikely to recover anytime soon."

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Liz Cameron (above), chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said that to prevent mass unemployment, support needs to be aimed at sectors such as renewable energy where there can be growth.

She said the UK should align unemployment benefits to reskilling and retraining focused on sectors such as decarbonisation, green energy, manufacturing and digital which is expected to show growth going forward.

"There is no easy fix, but we need to remain focussed, party politics aside, to tackle the global economic and jobs crisis we face," she said.

"Scotland’s economy has proven particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. This is in part due to Scotland’s heavy reliance in certain sectors, for example tourism and our independent retail and hospitality businesses in particular. They were the first to close down and are at the end of the road map to be able to restart completely.

“We have already seen major employers such as Rolls Royce and several major hoteliers forced to enter discussions on redundancy which will inevitably mean even more job losses.

“This situation has been partly shielded by the financial support provided to businesses through the UK Government’s Jobs Retention Scheme. With this financial support being reduced and finally withdrawn, businesses being unable to trade, earning no income to pay wages, there is no viable alternative. The unemployment situation in Scotland is also compounded by the fact that we tend to lag behind other parts of the UK in terms of economic performance even before the pandemic.

“We also need quick solutions targeted in the right areas to support those graduates and school leavers who are just entering the employment market. We will need to roll-out retraining and upskilling modules that are quick and agile that match up with the needs of Scotland’s economic sectors. Only by aligning our workforce and the needs of the economy will we be able to help large numbers of individuals to keep their jobs and secure new ones. Anything less will do permanent damage to the economy and to our skills base. "

Last week it emerged that Scotland's unemployment rate was now the highest among all the UK nations.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said unemployment in Scotland for people over 16 was 4.6%, compared with a UK rate of 3.9%.

HeraldScotland: Unemployment figures

Unemployment rose by rose by 30,000 to 127,000 between February and April as lockdown hit the labour market.

And ministers said the figures were a clear indication of the challenge facing Scotland as a result of the pandemic.

Scotland's unemployment rate went up from 3.5% in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile the latest figures show England's rate now stands at 3.9%, Wales is at 3% and Northern Ireland is at 2.3%.

The figures only captured the first five weeks of lockdown.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We know the scale of the challenge facing Scotland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and understand that many people will be feeling a deep sense of anxiety about their livelihoods. Keeping people in work while supporting those who have lost their jobs will continue to be at the heart of our thinking as we carefully reopen the economy. However, it is essential that protecting public health is an absolute priority and it is only by properly suppressing the virus that we will achieve a sustainable economic recovery.

“The impact of Covid-19 has been enormous on both businesses and individuals and the Scottish Government has so far spent more than £4 billion tackling its effects, including a £230 million Return to Work package to help stimulate Scotland’s economy.

“Scotland’s labour market has changed drastically since the lockdown measures were imposed. Tackling unemployment is our priority as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Four Ministers chaired a Labour Market Summit with Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council yesterday afternoon to ensure a co-ordinated approach to helping people across Scotland back into work

“While the Scottish Government has welcomed the support schemes from HMRC during this time, and their extension, it is important that we ensure this support continues to be offered for as long as required, particularly in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, retail, culture, and oil and gas, which will not have fully recovered by October. That is why we are urging the UK Government to work with us to ensure support reflects what is required in Scotland. Failure to do so will put the economy at a competitive disadvantage in recovering from this crisis, and could result in additional job losses. We must not allow that to happen.”