Credit Unions

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th February 2013.

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Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to support credit unions in light of the reported rapid expansion of high-interest short-term lending. (S4O-01790)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government recognises the valuable role that is played by credit unions in providing financial services and products, including affordable loans, to a wide range of customers. We will do all that we can to promote credit unions as an alternative to high-interest short-term lending, where that is appropriate.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

We will of course be returning to this issue in Parliament this afternoon. Nevertheless, will the minister agree to meet me to discuss the creditor status of credit unions, given that they are very much at the end of the queue in bankruptcy cases?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am happy to meet the member to discuss such matters. I am also delighted to note that today’s Daily Record, that campaigning newspaper for ordinary people in Scotland, has a 16-page pull-out containing very useful advice for those suffering the misery and despair of debt. If it is in order, Presiding Officer, I suggest that purchasing a copy of today’s Daily Record would be a very prudent investment.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Is the minister aware that East Kilbride Credit Union in my constituency has recently agreed to provide much-needed homes on the piece of land where it is building its new headquarters? Does he also agree that credit unions can be a hub of such innovative practice in their own communities?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am aware of what the member has highlighted. The 110 credit unions that operate in Scotland have 250,000 members and truly provide a marvellous service. We in this chamber want to promote their excellent work and I am happy not only to endorse the work that is being carried out in Linda Fabiani’s East Kilbride constituency but to pay tribute to the work of credit unions elsewhere such as 1st Alliance (Ayrshire) Credit Union, which is working in partnership with local registered social landlords to deal with the problems that are going to arise when the United Kingdom welfare reforms hit home and ensure that those who will be hit hard by those reforms can get access to their services. Such work is truly excellent and I commend that example to other credit unions across the country.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I apologise for arriving in the chamber only just now, Presiding Officer.

I want to put on record my thanks to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, who yesterday gave an undertaking to do what he could to give credit unions a kick-start. As I think Linda Fabiani suggested, quite a bit of training and recruitment will be required. If the minister could add his tuppence-worth, that, too, would be welcome.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

Minister—your tuppence-worth, please.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Although Margo MacDonald did not ask me a question, I am happy to agree with her comments. One might also reflect on the fact that credit unions manage their financial affairs a lot more effectively than many banks we might want to think about.