By Martin Kelly
Credit Union bosses have rejected Westminster claims that a Yes vote would threaten the operation of the sector in Scotland.
Writing recently in the Herald newspaper, sector chief Kenny MacLeod challenged claims made by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander who said that a Yes vote would “diminish” Scotland’s Credit Unions.
Mr Alexander wrote: “The imposition of a border would impact firms of all sizes, including smaller organisations like credit unions, who currently benefit from a range of UK-wide initiatives that help them grow and remain competitive; this benefit would more than likely diminish.”
However, in his letter to the Herald, Mr MacLeod, who is chief executive officer of Scotwest Credit Union wrote: “We were surprised to read the comments of Danny Alexander…regarding the future of credit unions in Scotland. Like those throughout the world, Scottish credit unions are member-owned, ethical providers of financial services and our common core co-operative values mean that there is already a significant sharing of knowledge and pooling of resources on a local, national and international level
He added: “… credit unions currently enjoy significant cross-party support in both the Scottish and UK parliaments, means that we are confident that Scottish credit unions will continue to flourish regardless of the outcome of the independence debate. We are disappointed at suggestions to the contrary.”
The issue is to be debated in the Scottish Parliament after a move by SNP MSP John Wilson. Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Wilson slammed what he described as the No campaign’s attempt to “strike fear” into the Scottish electorate.
Mr Wilson claimed that Lib Dem MP Alexander had been caught “red-handed” yet again on spreading false claims on the future of an independent Scotland.
The views of the Scotwest Credit Union Chief were echoed by Dermot O’Neil, from the Scottish League of Credit Unions, who told Radio Scotland: “Credit unions in Scotland are already connected to a global credit union presence…the commonality amongst all credit unions, is that credit unions are all owned by real people, and ultimately it’s the members of a credit union to determine what their own credit unions look like.”
Speaking ahead of his member’s debate on credit unions, Mr Wilson, who was also a former Director of the Scottish Low Pay Unit, said:
“First Danny Alexander was caught out on overseas investment, then he was caught out on the UK’s AAA rating, now it’s credit unions.
“What this latest development demonstrates is that we cannot trust a word Westminster says.
“The debate on Scotland’s future must be done in an honest and open way. It is disappointing to see the anti-independence campaign continue its negative campaign attempting to strike fear into the people of Scotland.
“Credit unions offer essential support and a secure way of saving for many people managing the family budget.
“Mr MacLeod was ‘disappointed’ to suggestions that a Yes vote would cause a threat – and said he was ‘confident’ credit unions in Scotland will ‘continue to flourish regardless of the outcome’.
“We all must praise and encourage the work of credit unions which are a vital resource for people who might otherwise have no alternative to using high-cost lenders.”