THE coming year is a mix of financial hopes and fears for Scots.

Although fewer Scots are expecting financial difficulties at the start of the New Year, expectations of the UK economy improving in 2015 have dropped, according to a new survey.

Research conducted by consumer organisation Which? - and given exclusively to the Sunday Herald - found just under half of those polled in Scotland (47%) described their finances as good.

Just over one-quarter (27%) expect their finances to get better in the coming year, but the number of households experiencing financial distress has dropped, with 29% reporting feeling squeezed against 39% a year ago.

However, the poll, which asked for predictions on participant's personal circumstances and the UK economy, has revealed a mixed picture, with 28% of Scots ­expecting their finances to get worse in the coming year.

And just 19% of people in Scotland expect the UK economy to get better in 2015 - down from 34% at the start of 2014. Across the whole of the UK, the figure was more optimistic at 30%.

Some 40% of Scots also expect the UK economy to get worse in 2015 - a similar proportion to last year - which is more than the UK-wide figure of 30%. But overall satisfaction with household living standards in Scotland is broadly similar to the rest of the UK at 61%, compared with 62%.

The data from the Which? Consumer Insight tracker, which surveyed just over 2000 people across the UK, found concerns were rising about long-term ­financial security, such as pensions and savings, and the quality of public services.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Consumers start the year with a decidedly mixed view of 2015, with many expecting their personal finances to revive but more feeling pessimistic about the wider economy.

"People now tell us they are worried about public services and their savings and pension pots."

Latest figures show that ­Scotland's jobless total fell by 11,000 between August and October, to 156,000, and the unemployment rate was 5.6%, compared with the UK rate of 6%.

David Bell, professor of ­economics at Stirling University, said employment in Scotland was as high as it had ever been, but that he did not expect growth in the country's economy to continue as quickly as it had in 2014.

He also said the oil industry was one sector which could particularly affect Scotland, due to the fall in the oil price affecting production and jobs.

He said: "Employment won't increase by as much as it has in 2014 - growth will be pretty slow and there will be still significant under-employment with people having jobs but wanting to work more hours in those jobs, and that will hold back any wage growth.

"So although price inflation is going to be very low, I think wage inflation will also be very low. Any increase in real wages will be very small, if at all."

Bell said while there was some recovery in the economy, income had still not recovered to the levels of 2008. "Of course, some people have done reasonably well and some people have done pretty badly since the recession, so it hasn't been evenly distributed," he said. "But on average people aren't any better off."

Economist Tony Mackay, of Inverness-based Mackay Consultants, said he estimated the Scottish economy grew by around 2.8% in 2014, but predicted that figure would be lower this year, mainly because of the oil price collapse. He said the forecast for 2015 is unlikely to be higher than 2.5% growth.

"There is little reason to expect the Scottish economy to perform significantly differently from the UK, with the notable exception of the oil and gas industry," he said.

"The collapse in the oil price is likely to have serious negative impacts in the Aberdeen area and Shetland, so I believe it is inevitable that the Scottish growth rate in 2015 will be lower than the UK average."

He added: "My perception is that many people are sceptical of the UK Government's statements about the UK economy, based on their personal experience.

"There has undoubtedly been growth in employment but most of the new jobs have been low paid and part-time."