SCOTLAND’S retail sector has been singled out for criticism in a call for more businesses to sign up to the living wage, with employers urged to tackle the “misery” low pay causes among the country’s shop workers.

The attack came from STUC general secretary Grahame Smith on the day Living Wage Week began with an announcement that the hourly rate paid by accredited living wage employers will rise from £8.45 to £8.75 to help cover cost of living increases.

Smith said: “The retail sector is one of the worst offenders for keeping wages chronically low.

“A quarter of a million Scots work in retail. The hourly rates paid by many of the Scottish Retail Consortium’s associates cause misery for employees and hold down wages across the supply chain.

“Millions of pounds are spent in tax credits and welfare payments to support low-paid retail workers, effectively subsiding chronic pay rates.

“And when it comes to tax, the low-wage retail culture is culpable for falling income tax revenues, squeezing the public services that we all depend on. Higher wages, not lower taxes, are the lift that workers need in retail and across our economy.”

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work Keith Brown welcomed the new living wage rate and joined the call for more Scottish employers to become accredited.

Speaking during a visit to the East Kilbride head office of construction company akp Scotland, he said: “This increase to the living wage is good news for thousands of people and will help boost wages to offset the increasing cost of living.

“The living wage is not just positive for employees, it also makes sense for businesses, having been proven to increase productivity, reduce staff absence, and improve morale. It also sends a strong and valuable signal to customers about fairness.”