NEW car sales in Scotland grew at double the rate of the UK in a sign of increasing optimism among consumers north of the Border.

After lagging behind the UK for months, May saw a surge in new car registrations in Scotland, with the year-on-year increase more than twice the national average.

New car registrations in Scotland last month jumped 15.8 per cent against the same month in 2013, while the UK as a whole experienced a year-on-year upturn of 7.7 per cent.

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There were 17,800 new cars registered north of the Border, from a total of 194,032 nationwide, meaning Scots motorists accounted for nearly one in 10 of all new car sales in May.

Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA), said: "We are delighted the May figures show a continued increase.

"We believe this is evidence Scottish consumers are aware we are coming out the recession and further evidence that Scottish consumers are aware of the low running costs of cars and the fantastic choice and offers available to them."

The latest figures reinforce predictions the UK car market will return to its pre-recession peak this summer, with car sales seen as a key barometer of the recovery.

The figures for May, compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), represent a record-breaking 27 consecutive months of growth - outstripping the last sustained boom in car sales seen in the 1980s.

Total registrations to date have now passed the one million mark to 1,058,974 units, up 11.6 per cent compared to the first five months of 2013. This included sales of 95,099 new cars in Scotland, equivalent to almost nine per cent of the UK total.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "The new car market has now grown in every month since March 2012 - the longest period of growth on record and a reflection of the UK's ever-improving economic conditions.

"Over the past 27 months, increasingly confident consumers have been drawn to some fantastic new products, attracted by innovative technologies, improved fuel economy and competitive deals helping make a new car more affordable.

"With SMMT forecasting an overall rise of about six per cent over the year, the coming months should see some levelling off in growth rates as underlying demand stabilises."

Chris Sutton, managing director at motor finance provider Black Horse, added: "If the positive momentum in new car sales continues, it looks like we are set for a strong second quarter in the motor industry. This month's figures show consumer demand for new cars remains unabated, albeit we may not see the same pace of growth we have witnessed in recent months.

" Car manufacturers are clearly offering the right balance of quality cars and attractive finance deals that make owning a new car both affordable and appealing."

While the Ford Fiesta remains the UK's most popular new car, in Scotland buyers continue to favour the Vauxhall Corsa.

The top 10 list of makes and models sold in Scotland also shows that high-end brands are increasing in popularity, with sales of the Audi A3 almost doubling on 2013 levels to 349 sales to date - making it a bigger seller than the Volkswagen Polo.

Meanwhile, Audi, BMW and Mercedes are all ranked among Scotland's top 10 most popular new car brands for the first time since the upturn began. Sales of all three manufacturers' models are up 17 per cent so far compared to 2013 levels.