Scottish government pledges to boost credit unions and social enterprises

The government says it will continue to work with the sector to protect communities from 'predatory lenders'

The latest Programme for Government for 2018/2019 published by the Scottish government includes commitments to grow the credit union sector and support social enterprises.

The document highlights that Scotland has a strong credit union sector, adding that over the last two years the government has funded credit unions to run projects with local schools, encouraging young people to budget and save.

“Last year £148,000 was provided to 11 credit unions and since the programme commenced, in 2016, 47 new savings schemes have been established in schools across the country, from Dumfries and Galloway to Morayshire,” reads the programme.

The government pledges to continue to work with the sector on providing affordable lending and savings and protect communities from “predatory lenders”. In November the government launches an awareness campaign to further strengthen the credit union movement.

“We know that accessing affordable credit is a concern generally across Scotland,” the programme adds. “That is why we are investing £1m in the Affordable Credit Fund, working with the Carnegie UK Trust to reduce the ‘poverty premium’ low-income households often have to pay.

“Care-experienced young people, in particular, can face considerable challenges to borrow money. We want to help. Over the next year, we will work with the Care Review to develop options which will help these young people increase access to financial services, including affordable credit.”

Scottish Policy officer for the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul), Karen Hurst, said: “We are pleased that the Scottish government continues to recognise the important role the credit union sector plays for many people in Scotland, particularly in relation to affordable credit. We’ve been working closely with the Scottish government on developing the campaign, and are really excited to see it launch in November.”

In terms of social enterprises, some of which are co-operatives, the programme of government points out that this sector contributes £2bn to the Scottish economy each year and provides jobs for around 80,000 people.

“They can be an exemplar of sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” adds the programme.

The Scottish government says it will use the Year of Young People 2018 and its delivery of social enterprise activity in schools and early learning establishments across Scotland to raise awareness of social enterprise as a viable and rewarding career. In addition, the government will double its seed funding for start-ups from £500,000 to £1m through its national social enterprise incubator. As part of this initiative, the government will provide over £134,000 funding in 2018-19 to expand the Community Shares Scotland programme.

The Scottish government will conduct a national census of the sector in 2019.

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