CONSUMER advice centres across Scotland has seen calls for advice on redundancy nearly treble in the space of just three months, prompting fresh concerns about a jobless crisis.

The Citizens Advice network in Scotland advised people on redundancy 543 times in April, but have revealed that figure soared to 1584 times in July.

It came as it emerged Scotland suffered an 11,000 rise in unemployment between April and June, meaning there are now 124,000 Scots out of work.

Citizens Advice Scotland is now calling on the Chancellor to be flexible about winding down the furlough scheme and extend it for at risk sectors and areas if necessary.

The consumer organisation Which? is now calling for the financial regulator to take urgent steps to extend support for people who are struggling due to the coronavirus crisis to prevent millions of people from facing serious financial consequences.

Which? has made representations to the Financial Conduct Authority that it should act to protect households facing a potentially disastrous financial cliff-edge when temporary relief measures such as payment holidays, interest-free overdrafts and the furlough scheme come to an end.

It says protections that are currently in place, which provide crucial support for those that are struggling, should be extended by three months until 31 January 2021 to ease the financial impact on consumers when the furlough scheme ends on October 31, 2020.

CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said:“It’s essential that governments and policy makers take the right steps to protect people from the economic storm ahead.

“Households across the country will be facing a financial cliff edge as furlough winds down in the autumn. We want to see flexibility from the Chancellor so people aren’t pushed into unsustainable financial insecurity.

“The Citizens Advice network in Scotland has seen a huge increase in demand for redundancy advice during the pandemic and we can only see that demand increasing in the months the ahead."

Which? says that while payment holidays are not a long-term solution and it is in the best interests for consumers to repay where possible, there is likely to be a rise in the number of consumers falling into financial distress as a result of the furlough scheme ending who will need to access this support.

It said lenders should offer wider "forbearance options" such as payment rescheduling or freezing interest when another deferral is not in the consumer's best interest.

The consumer organisation said it was too early to return to existing forbearance rules - designed for those facing financial hardship - raising concerns that firms will be unable to offer tailored support to struggling customers.

It also suggests that normal credit reference agency reporting rules should not immediately be applied after the October 31 deadline has passed.

Anyone who has already accessed a payment holiday due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic - or who accesses one between now and January 31, 2021 - must not have their long-term creditworthiness negatively impacted as a result, it said.

The timescales of forbearance complaints should be reduced so consumers can get urgent support when they need it, the consumer organisation added.

Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said: “The regulator has acted quickly and effectively to help those struggling financially due to the pandemic, but it must be prepared to take further bold action to prevent millions of people from being hit by a perfect storm of financial pressures in the coming months.

“The huge number of payment holidays taken highlights the scale of financial difficulty people in this country are facing - a situation that is likely to become worse as support measures like the furlough scheme come to an end.

“The regulator must treat all consumers fairly - ensuring financial support is still provided to those who need it and also available for those who may face financial problems for the first time after October 31.”

The number of people in work in Scotland fell by 15,000 between April and June as the impact of lockdown hit, according to the latest figures show.

The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in employment north of the border fell over the quarter to 74.3% (2.651 million), data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates.

The unemployment rate rose over that period to 4.5 per cent with 124,000 people out of work. This was higher than the UK unemployment rate of 3.9 per cent.

Yesterday, Scotland's finance secretary Kate Forbes said she was "disappointed" that the Chancellor did not intend to extend the furlough scheme beyond October 31 "despite our repeated representations".

She added: "I am extremely concerned about the cliff edge in October."