MORE than 270,000 Scots sought help from the Citizens Advice network last year, with the charity reporting the “most notable increase” in queries was about Universal Credit.

More than two-fifths (44%) of cases raised at Citizens Advice Bureaux were about benefits.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) revealed in its annual report that Universal Credit made up almost 40,000 of these in 2018-19, a rise to 13% from 6% the previous year. During 2018-19, more than 272,000 people received advice and assistance from the charity – the equivalent of one in every 18 adults.

With debt problems the second most common reason for people to seek help – more than 100,000 pieces of debt advice were issued in 2018-19 – CAS fears for many Scots the cost of living is becoming “unsustainable”.

It has referred more than 13,000 people to food banks in 2019.

The report said: “What the Advice in Scotland data shows is that people across Scotland continue to feel the squeeze on incomes, whether that is through social security payments, unsustainable levels of debt or low pay and insecure work.”

The charity, which provides help from 280 locations across Scotland, now wants the next UK Government to “put living standards at the heart of its agenda”.

Employment matters were the third most common reason for people to seek help, with 43,000 pieces of advice issued.

Staff and volunteers dealt with 700,000 queries in total during 2018-19 and helped fill out almost 500,000 official forms, leading to more than £130 million of financial gain for clients.

CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “We’re an independent and impartial charity but the data from our state of the nation report makes clear that the next UK government simply must have living standards at the heart of its agenda.

“From issues such as debt and social security to energy we are seeing people struggle with the cost of living.”