DEMAND for workers is increasing in Scotland amid a growing labour shortage, new figures show.

Six out of the UK’s top 10 hiring hotspots were in Scotland last week, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the industry body, warned the months ahead “could be difficult” as businesses gear up for the busy festive season.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said staff shortages “are now putting real pressure on food and drink supplies” and insisted her Government had “warned repeatedly of the damage that would be caused by Brexit”.

She called images of food rotting in fields “astonishing”.

The REC said there were 1.66 million active UK job adverts in the UK in the week beginning August 23.

It said new job postings have remained high since early June, and labour shortages continue to be a concern for both government and businesses. Scotland has seen a steady increase in active job postings, according to the REC.

Six out of the top 10 hiring hotspots last week were in Scotland, the most notable being the Western Isles where numbers more than doubled (+134.8 per cent) compared to the previous week.

This was followed by the Shetland Islands (+11.0%), Orkney Islands (+7.5%) and East Dunbartonshire (+7.4%). Mr Carberry said: “Demand for workers remains very high across the economy and shows no signs of weakening. With businesses in the particularly squeezed food, logistics and hospitality sectors starting to gear up for Christmas, the months ahead could be difficult – even with a large number of people coming off furlough in August and September.

“It is worth remembering that some of this could be short-term. Large numbers of people are finding new work post-pandemic as the economy reshapes. But that realignment will take time, and there is good evidence to suggest that the market will remain tight for some years to come, even if the current crisis passes. Hiring businesses need to assess their workforce plans and work out how they are going to attract and retain the staff they need in the coming months and years.”

Mr Carberry insisted recruitment businesses “are best placed to help”.

He added: “But employers also need government to work with them in a practical, co-operative way on skills, unemployment and immigration changes in order to get through this crisis.”

CBI Scotland also highlighted the “stark reality” many businesses are facing of labour shortages, saying the manufacturing, logistics and hospitality sectors were “already struggling to recruit the talent needed”.

During First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan asked Ms Sturgeon about the issue of retail stock and staff shortages in the run-up to Christmas.

She said: “We have warned repeatedly of the damage that would be caused by Brexit. We knew that the loss of freedom of movement would be particularly damaging.

“Sadly, staff shortages are now putting real pressure on food and drink supplies, and the images of healthy food rotting in the fields are astonishing.

“Frankly, the Tories should be hanging their heads in shame for this whole sorry situation.”