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17 December 2014, 08:40
Scots have the highest level of council tax arrears and payday loan debts in the UK, according to debt charity figures.
StepChange said 39% of Scots who appealed for help in the first six months of the year were in arrears on their council tax bill.
Those who had fallen behind with payments owed an average of £1,534 - almost double the UK figure of £798.
The average payday loan debt of Scottish clients was £1,438, around £129 more than the UK figure.
The charity advised 4,369 people in Scotland in the six months to June.
In its report, Scotland in the Red, StepChange also highlighted the increasing number of people falling behind on essential household bills.
The charity's Scottish clients had the largest average electricity arrears (£616) in the UK.
The overall debt level of those seeking help dropped to £12,359, however - the lowest of the UK nations.
The average income of Scottish clients also rose slightly from last year and at £14,657 was £162 more than the UK average.
Sharon Bell, head of StepChange Scotland, said: "The rise in people struggling to pay their priority bills is a stark reminder of just how difficult day-to-day living has become for many Scottish households.
"Keeping a roof over your head and heating your home are basic needs, yet for too many Scottish families, these are constant worries in the run-up to Christmas. Even where families are not in debt, many live on a financial knife-edge with small setbacks enough to tip them over the edge into problem debt.
"We continue to see worrying levels of payday loan debt which are making a bad situation worse for too many Scots. Toxic high cost credit is being used as an emergency safety net and we need to find more sustainable ways to help people cope.''
The charity said council tax payers in the Lothians reported the largest increase in average arrears, from £1,443 in 2013 to £2,255 by the end of June this year.
The average value of rent arrears among those seeking help in Scotland was £665.
Glasgow reported the lowest average income and lowest average debt amongst Scottish clients.