MORAY MSP RICHARD LOCHHEAD has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland continues to lead the way in fair debt legislation.
His comments come after a report by StepChange Debt Charity, the largest provider of free over-the-phone debt advice in the UK, published their annual report, Scotland in the Red, which showed that record numbers of Scottish clients had contacted the charity for help with debts in 2016.
The average debt of people contacting StepChange from Moray was £13,982 while the average debt of StepChange clients across all of Scotland was £12,677.
Mr Lochhead has backed calls from StepChange Debt Charity to expand the reach of Scotland’s existing Debt Arrangement Scheme – which freezes interest and charges while someone pays off their debts – better support hard-pressed households who have fallen into financial difficulty.
The Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) already helps thousands of Scots every year by freezing their interest and charges, and stopping enforcement action by creditors, but some people in temporary financial difficulty are not able to get guaranteed protections.
The MSP said: “I’m very concerned that record numbers are contacting StepChange for debt help. Too many people are having to borrow money just to get by, struggling to save, working hard and finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“With more people falling into debt, we need to make sure that we do as much as possible at Holyrood to help those who have had a temporary financial setback, like the loss of a job or the death of a family member.”
Mr Lochhead pointed to Moray already having access to the best protections in the UK thanks to the DAS – but he believes more can and should be done to help a greater number of people.
He said: “Expanding the DAS would give people time to get back on their feet without the worry of their debts spiralling out of control. It would give people the best chance of getting themselves back into a position where they can start making payments on their debts.”