Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has welcomed the launch of a campaign today (Monday) to highlight alternatives to high interest lenders.
People across Scotland are being urged to consider credit unions as an ethical and affordable alternative to payday loans.
Just last week Angus met with volunteers at Falkirk District Credit Union who highlighted to him the damage and upset caused by high interest lenders, including pay day loan companies.
The launch today of The ‘12 Days of Debtmas’ campaign is aimed at people who may get into financial trouble in the run-up to Christmas by using high interest, short-term credit.
Over 350,000 people across Scotland are members of credit unions; co-operatives that are owned and managed by the people who use them.
Members are encouraged to save monthly, even if it is only small sums. They can borrow at competitively priced rates and in some cases, in a short timescale.
First Minister Alex Salmond recently announced plans to protect consumers pledging payday lenders would be subject to tougher regulation in an independent Scotland.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the “12 Days of Debtmas’ campaign Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said:
“I would encourage any of my constituents considering using high interest lenders in the run-up to Christmas to think twice before committing themselves to paying sky-high interest rates. Companies involved in this business are nothing short of legalised loan sharks and the sooner we can put a significant cap on their interest rates the better. I have seen the misery locally that these vultures without a conscience can cause. There is no doubt that credit unions are the way forward and I would encourage everyone to support the credit union movement and open an account as soon as possible.
Speaking at Grampian Credit Union, Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing said:
“The Scottish Government is very concerned about the growth of payday lending and the impact that high interest borrowing, especially in the run up to Christmas, has on people in Scotland.
“This campaign raises awareness of credit unions and also promotes their affordable lending solutions to people in the lead up to Christmas, and after the festive period, when bills start to arrive.
“People across Scotland can join credit unions and not just for hard pressed communities – all sorts of people could use credit unions to save and to take out loans at manageable interest rates.
“You can join a credit union and in some cases, borrow money in a short timescale. It costs significantly less to borrow money from a credit union than taking out a payday loan and you receive much more support in managing your finances.
“I welcome the changes that have been made at UK level but I continue to press for firmer action. To protect consumers, payday lenders would be subject to tougher regulation in an independent Scotland.”
Scotland’s main faith groups, consumer groups and debt charities have welcomed the campaign.
Margaret Lynch, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland said:
“Payday Loans are one of the main issues that we see today in the CAB service. Across Scotland our advisers are currently seeing over 100 cases every week of people who are having problems with a payday loan. That’s an increase of a third in such cases since this time last year.
“We back the Government’s statement today, and are keen to spread the message to consumers about the dangers of high-interest loans. To people who might be considering taking out a loan we say: Be very careful about what lender you use. Payday loans might seem convenient today, but they can lead you deep into debt.
“Shop around for a better deal. There are other lenders, like Credit Unions, with loans that are easier to repay. In particular, if you are already in debt to a payday lender, avoid roll-over loans with the same lender.”
Frank McKillop, Policy & Relations Manager (Scotland), Association of British Credit Unions Limited said:
“People across Scotland from all walks of life join credit unions to take control of their finances – saving for future expenses, borrowing responsibly at affordable rates, and accessing other financial products from ethical local providers.
“We hope this campaign will attract many more people to join a credit union and take a responsible approach to their finances, rather than being drawn to the sort of short term fix which often makes money problems worse.”
John Deighan, Catholic Parliamentary Officer said:
“The effects of high interest loans on the poorest in society is devastating. Usury has been condemned throughout the ages for oppressing the poor through unreasonable and irresponsible lending.
“Yet our society is effectively permitting the practise supported by slick television and media commercials. It is right that political action seeks to highlight alternatives and ensure reasonable access to credit without the crippling interest rates that so many are enduring.”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald concluded:
“I was pleased to sign the motion tabled in the Scottish Parliament today by Kezia Douglas MSP, detailed below, which is attracting cross-party support;
That the Parliament recognises the work of the Debtbusters campaign; believes that, from Greenock to Musselburgh and from Inverness to Dumfries, Debtbusters is bringing people together to campaign against the payday loan industry; notes that it has three key objectives: taking on payday loan companies street-by-street, promoting credit unions; and improving debt relief services; understands that the campaign has consistently called for the introduction of “wealth warnings”; notes that, presently, it is focusing on how the run-up to Christmas impacts on financial health; congratulates the Scottish Government on both listening to Debtbusters and launching its campaign, 12 Days of Debtmas, and welcomes cross-party efforts to tackle predatory payday lending and to focus on the wider campaign to cap the total cost of credit.
“With cross-party support to tackle predatory pay-day lending and to focus on capping the total cost of credit we will hopefully see movement on this in the near future. In the meantime, please support your local credit union!”