THE number of Scottish companies in critical distress has risen by 8%, according to the latest data from Begbies Traynor.

The insolvency specialist said there were 157 instances of businesses with decrees totalling more than £5000 or with winding-up petitions in the finalquater of 2013.

The Scottish picture was in contrast to the UK where there was a 1% fall when compared with the same period of 2012.

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Scottish firms showing significant signs of distress - either with court actions against them or with poor or out of date accounts - rose by 7% between October and December last year, which was less severe than the 16% hike seen across the UK.

Ken Pattullo, group managing partner at Begbies Traynor in Scotland, said: "Scotland's smaller businesses, that are the engine room of the economy and drive the growth, are still bearing the brunt of business distress accounting for 92% of the instances of significant distress reported in the last quarter."