A CAMPAIGN has been launched to encourage people to consider using credit unions instead of payday lenders as Christmas approaches.
The Scottish Government’s 12 Days of Debtmas campaign is aimed at people who may get into financial trouble at this time of year by using high interest, short-term credit.
It comes amid reports of dramatic increases in debts from payday lending.
Just over 18 per cent of the people helped by StepChange Debt Charity Scotland in the first half of this year had at least one of these loans, compared with 9 per cent in 2012.
More than 350,000 people across Scotland are members of credit unions, which are co-operatives that are owned and managed by the people who use them. Members are encouraged to save monthly and they can borrow at competitively priced rates and in some cases, in a short timescale.
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.”
The campaign has been welcomed by faith groups, consumer groups, debt charities and opposition parties.
Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who has been backing the separate Debtbusters financial advice drive, described the new campaign as a “victory for common sense”.
She said: “Warning people against the dangers of payday lenders, promoting debt advice services and highlighting credit unions as a credible alternative to these legal loan sharks is the right thing to do, and so I am glad the Scottish Government has finally stopped trying to defend these companies and decided to act.”