Holyrood unveils plans to help Scots in debt

Fergus Ewing said the number of people accessing DAS is continuing to grow. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Fergus Ewing said the number of people accessing DAS is continuing to grow. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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PLANS to help thousands of Scots drowning in debt have been unveiled by the Scottish Government with proposals to ease the rules surrounding arrears.

Almost 120,000 Scots sought their help last year after racking up debts they couldn’t afford, according to Citizens Advice Scotland.

Now interest and charges are to be frozen at an earlier date when Scots enter the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS), under changes to programme unveiled today. This could potentially save people in debt up to 6 weeks interest.

Debt-ridden Scots will also be allowed to apply for a “payment break” of up to six months under changes to the DAS if their income has more than halved.

Enterprise minister Fergus Ewing said the number of people accessing DAS is continuing to grow.

“DAS is an adaptable solution designed to respond to market changes and we need to do what we can, to help people whose debt burden may have built up since DAS was last updated in 2011, partly as a consequence of high-interest lending,” he said.

“I am pleased with the broad welcome that our changes have been given by organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland who have said that our amendments “should have a beneficial effect on their bureaux and clients.”

Average debts for Scots in money trouble have hit £15,000, and there has been a worrying rise in the number of young people who owe huge amounts before they reach 21.

The number of people accessing DAS continues to grow with a further rise of 40% last year - making an overall ten-fold increase over the last six years.

Earlier this year, an overhaul of the bankruptcy laws was unveiled by the Scottish Government. Every Scot with cash woes is to have access to money advice before becoming bankrupt and also get financial education under the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill.

DAS is not bankruptcy, it is a government-run debt management tool which allows someone in debt to repay their debts through a debt payment programme