Scots drowning in debt as personal insolvencies rise

Scots are drowning in a debt according to a new study.

Scots are drowning in a debt according to a new study.

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Personal insolvencies in Scotland rose by almost a fifth last year, according to new figures released by Scotland’s national insolvency service.

Provisional statistics from the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) show an increase of 18 per cent on 2015/16, rising by 1484 to 9958 in 2016/17.

The number includes those who declared bankruptcy and people who entered protected trust deeds (PTDs).

PTDs – where the debtor passes their estate to a trustee to pay creditors – rose by 16 per cent last year to 5473.

However, corporate insolvencies experienced a slight fall, dropping by 63 to 840 in the previous year,

The AiB statistics cover the fourth quarter of 2016-17 and provide provisional estimates for 2016/17 before final figures for the year are published in July. The number of members’ voluntary liquidations (solvent liquidations) fell from 358 to 119 over the same period.

Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “These figures are the second lowest since 2005/06, at which time award of bankruptcy was reserved to the courts.

“Since then, access to bankruptcy for those facing serious financial difficulty has been simplified greatly and in this context today’s figures highlight the low levels of personal insolvency we have in Scotland.

“We recognise 2015-16 was an abnormally low one for personal insolvency and therefore it is important that work continues to protect the most financially vulnerable and prevent, where we can do so, people suffering the uncertainty and anxiety of financial distress.”

The minister added: “There is no question Scotland’s businesses continue to face a challenging and uncertain future, and it is a great testament to how robust and resolute they are that numbers of companies being forced to shut their doors continues to drop.”

Tim Cooper, chair of R3 in Scotland, the insolvency trade body, said personal insolvency had started to “creep up”.

He added: “Inflation is rising while real pay has not kept pace with increases in the price of essentials like food and fuel,” he said.

“For many people whose finances were already precarious, this may have been enough to put them in a position where they have to consider entering a formal insolvency procedure.”

Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Dean Lockhart said the SNP’s economic policies were to blame for the rise.

“Some of the figures recorded are disappointing given the amount that the UK Government has done to help people avoid falling on hard times – helping to sustain record low interest and mortgage rates which is helping businesses and individuals in debt.

“An 18 per cent year-on-year rise on insolvencies is evidence of the grave economic problems Scotland consistently encounters as a result of the SNP’s anti-growth style of governing.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com