SCOTLAND has become “embedded” as the zero-hours contract nation of the UK and the case for Holyrood having power over employment law is now “unanswerable”, union leaders say.

The number of zero-hours contracts in use north of the Border has increased from 105,000 to 109,000 in the quarter between April to June, according to the latest Labour Force survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Scotland leads the way in the UK for use of these contracts, with 4.1% of workers employed on them, compared to 3.6% in England, 3.2% in Wales and 1.5% in Northern Ireland.

The data shows across the UK there has been an increase in the use of zero hours contracts within hospitality at 28.5% and education at 10.5%, while significant numbers of workers in caring, leisure and services are also on the contracts at 19.5%.

READ MORE: Scotland has highest percentage of zero-hours workers in UK, finds ONS

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “It’s a scourge on our society that precarious zero-hours contracts continue to be on the rise in Scotland.

“This is a record our nation doesn’t need nor should want. There is nothing to celebrate or to be proud of when workers have their agency stripped of them and power handed to employers.

“We have seen some stunning successes of organised, unionised precarious workers fighting and winning improved terms and conditions within their workplace. That fight continues.”

She added: “Whilst the Scottish Government must do all it can with the levers it has to prevent these contracts, the ultimate responsibility lies at Westminster.

READ MORE: Zero hours contracts do nothing but cause anxiety and fear

“The case for the devolution of employment law to the Scottish Parliament is now unanswerable and any incoming Labour Government should seek to commit to this at the earliest possible opportunity within power.”

STUC Better Than Zero coordinator Tam Wilson added: “Zero-hours contracts are a symbol of a rotten employment model that removes power and rights from workers and places it within the hands of bosses.

“It would be far more prudent for employers to reach agreements with their workforce on set working patterns, including delivering basic workplace rights like sick and holiday pay.

“Workers throughout the country are getting organised to demand better from their employers and governments. Sending zero-hours contracts back to the Dickensian age where they belong is just one part of that.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work and rewarded for their contribution to the economy including pay and fair working conditions. 

“Zero-hour contracts are an important part of our flexible labour market and can provide opportunities for people who may need to balance work and other commitments.

"Our employment framework strikes the right balance between the flexibility our economy needs and protecting worker’s rights.”