MORE than half a million adults plunged into debt in Scotland during the pandemic or saw pre-existing debts become even worse, according to new analysis.

A further estimated 291,000 Scottish adults aren’t currently in debt but feel at risk of it, while 382,000 do not feel at risk of debt but said they struggle to make ends meet.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said that from its analysis of YouGov polling it estimated that 364,004 Scottish adults had debt before the pandemic which has got worse.

A further 236,602 Scottish adults did not have debt before the pandemic and now do. In order to help those who are struggling, the organisation has launched Debt Happens, a campaign encouraging people to seek advice to deal with debt.

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The charity’s financial health spokesperson, Myles Fitt, said it was important to let people know they did not have to try to cope alone.

“Debt shouldn’t be a taboo subject or something people are ashamed to talk about and these figures show the scale of the problem across Scotland, with hundreds of thousands of people either at risk of debt, entering debt during the pandemic, or seeing their arrears deepen during Covid,” said Fitt.

“The key thing we want people to understand is they are not alone. These figures show hundreds of thousands of people are in the same boat, and with the cost of living crisis increasing the pressure on household budgets, now is the time to seek advice.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau CAB network can help people through local CABs or our online tools like the public advice site or Money Map.

“Some people will benefit from specialist debt advice which restructures their payments, while others will see benefit from more money in their pockets through help with income maximisation,” said Fitt.

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“Either way we can help. Our advice is free, confidential and impartial, we’ll never charge people for advice and we never judge about people’s circumstances.”

The poll of 1001 Scottish adults was carried out by YouGov in February and the CAS team carried out calculations to extrapolate the data to the general population.

Their analysis follows findings that 28% of adults in Scotland are struggling to cope with household bills and credit commitments, compared with 16% just before the pandemic began.

Around 1.2m said they were finding it hard to keep up with the bills and credit card commitments, an increase of nearly half a million since March 2020, according to the charity StepChange.