Yesterday, 17 January, the Scottish Parliament underlined its support for the key role that credit unions play in communities in a debate that was ‘Celebrating the Role of Credit Unions in Scotland’s Communities’ in which speakers from all of the political parties spoke.
Credit unions are of major economic importance to Scotland and hope to grow their membership still further from around 7% of the Scottish population that currently belong to a credit union; the highest membership levels for any of the nations of the UK. Scotland’s more than 90 credit unions have a combined membership of more than 420,000, including more than 58,000 junior savers.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP, is a big supporter of credit unions and played a pivotal role in the launch of the Scottish Government’s recent awareness campaign, “People, not Profit” that encouraged people to join their local credit union.
Speaking in the debate, Aileen said: “Credit unions frequently adapt their services to address specific problems that face the communities that they serve. As well as developing financial capability in the heart of our communities and workplaces, credit unions are important providers of financial education—they run programmes in local schools to improve financial literacy and encourage our young people to start good habits of saving.
“The Scottish Government seeks to support the sector in other ways, notably by supporting credit unions to partner with employers to offer payroll deduction schemes, to encourage saving and provide access to funds at a time when credit is needed.
“Every workforce should have access to safe, ethical and affordable finance. There are clear links between financial health and levels of wellbeing and productivity. Research shows that one in four workers reports having lost sleep over money worries and that almost 60 per cent of workers say that financial worries negatively impact on their performance at work.
“That is why we encourage employers from the private and public sectors to ensure that staff has access to regular saving and ethical loans by partnering with a credit union”.
Continuing the debate in Parliament, Alex Rowley, Labour MSP welcomed the opportunity to celebrate the role of credit unions in believes that more must be done in regards to employers offering a payroll deduction facility to employees.
Alex referred to ABCUL’s Work Not Worry campaign stating that: “the statistics speak for themselves. One in four employees lose sleep over money worries; 59 per cent of employees with money worries say that they are not working at their best; 26 per cent of working-age adults in the UK have no savings at all, and a further 29 per cent have less than £1,000 in savings.
“Offering a payroll deduction facility would encourage more employees to save and borrow with a credit union, which would benefit the employer, the employee and the wider community. I hope that the Scottish Government recognises that and I am pleased that it has said that it will accept Labour’s amendment today. It is now for the Parliament to come together and work together to encourage more companies and organisations to follow that approach”.
Ruth Maguire MSP, Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Credit Unions in the Scottish Parliament, praised her local credit union, 1st Alliance Credit Union for being at ‘the heart of our community’ and referred to the time when the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Kilwinning closed. Ruth said: “1st Alliance stepped up to reassure folk and to provide services to local people and businesses. As well as being a good alternative to those other institutions, credit unions provide a good service. As members have said, it is not just for folk on low incomes. Credit unions can be great for people who want to make an ethical choice about where they put their money.
“Scotland’s credit union movement has provided vital financial services to our communities for more than 45 years. With continued support from across political divides, I know that it will continue to do so for many more years.
“Finally, I encourage members who have spoken passionately today about their local credit unions and the wider credit union movement to join us at the cross-party group and to consider taking that supportive work forward”.
You can read the full debate online here.