By Lynn Malone
The SNP say a Yes vote is the only way to guarantee the end of poverty, payday loans, debt and misery for families in Scotland.
Their spokesperson said: “Next year, we face a choice of two futures. With a Yes vote, we can stop the scandal of 50,000 children in Scotland being pushed into poverty by 2020.
“Families in Scotland will also gain from being part of a more equal society, as opposed to the Westminster system which has seen the gap between rich and poor grow year on year. The only certainty of a No vote is more of the same austerity and hardship pushed onto us by Westminster.”
But the SNP say they will work alongside credit unions to help those who are suffering from poverty due to payday loans.
Their spokesperson told Newsnet Scotland they are committed to working with others to end the misery of payday loans, saying: “The SNP believes that credit unions may be able to offer affordable alternatives to high-interest short-term lenders, and we do all that we can to promote them wherever appropriate.
“In Government, the SNP is committed to working with stakeholders, including credit unions, to assist those who are suffering from financial difficulty due to high interest credit, particularly pay day loans.”
The Church of Scotland has also condemned the payday loan companies who target the poor. Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council said the most vulnerable in society were being targeted.
She said: “The economics of our society is badly wrong. Payday lenders who levy extortionate charges and rates are exploiting the most vulnerable.
“The Church of Scotland is on the side of the most vulnerable in society because we believe that there is a Gospel bias to the poor. This concern is expressed in many ways, and our work to promote the mutuality and co-operation in financial services is an extension of that concern.
“We need alternatives for affordable credit for people on lower incomes, as well as a fundamental reform of our current economic system. After the financial crisis many people said that we could not return to business as usual.”
Rev Foster-Fulton believes reasonable and responsible financial services should be available to everyone, especially the most marginalised.
She praised Glasgow City Council’s recent proposals for all first year secondary school pupils to get credit union accounts.
She backed Archbishop Justin Welby who has declared war on payday loan online lender Wonga. She said: “I totally agree with Justin Welby that ethical financial institutions have to be able to compete with payday lenders. Part of that will be enabling credit unions to improve the service that they can offer their members.
“We’re committed to working with the Church of England to see how a joint credit union project can best serve more people across both nations.”
The SNP say they are doing what they can to alleviate the effects of Westminster’s austerity on society.
They said: “While powers over financial regulation and pay-day loans currently lie with Westminster, The Scottish Government is also doing all it can to mitigate the effects of Westminster austerity through policies such as the Social Wage which sees Council Tax remaining frozen, free prescriptions maintained, concessionary bus travel supported and a Living Wage of £7.45 for workers covered by Scottish Government pay policy.
“The £33m Scottish Welfare Fund has also been established for families facing hardship as a result of welfare cuts. But the actions of the Westminster Government are pushing more people – including many younger people – into hardship, and potentially into the hands of payday loan firms.”
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said they would welcome any efforts to provide alternative credit options but would urge people to think very carefully before they get into any sort of debt.
“The CAB service in Scotland is experiencing a steady increase in cases of people who are struggling with payday loans. At the moment 100 people every week come to a Scottish CAB for advice on this issue, said Chief Executive Margaret Lynch.
“We can help those people in some ways but our strong advice to people is not to take out a high-interest loan in the first place – at least not without reading the small print and knowing exactly what you’ll have to pay back, and by when. If you need to borrow there are often other sources which will cost less and be easier to re-pay.”
“You can get free, confidential advice from your local CAB.”