AS many men as women have been calling a new hotline for people having relationship troubles.

Experts running the new Relationship Helpline believe the confidential nature of the service will encourage more men to call to discuss their problems.

Launched yesterday, it aims to provide a supporting voice to anyone experiencing difficulty with any kind of relationship.

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Staff manning the phones in pre-launch testing were surprised to find half of all callers were male.

Stella Gibson, chief executive of Scottish Marriage Care, the counselling charity running the helpline, said the fact that control remains with the caller could appeal to men.

"The helpline is a different way of doing things," she said. "You don't have to go off and see someone. You are just lifting the phone and it is really quite confidential.

"You have got control of the situation and you can hang up at any time."

The project has received a £150,000 grant from the Scottish Government and discussions for extending the funding beyond March 2013 are ongoing.

Mrs Gibson said the state of the economy and, in the shorter term, the intensity of Christmas means that families are currently under significant pressure.

The launch was also attended by Aileen Campbell, minister for children and families.

Between 3000 and 4000 phone calls are expected to be logged within the first year of the new helpline, which will be available on 0808 802 2088 from 9am and 8pm between Monday to Thursday and 9am to 5pm on Fridays.