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Holyrood calls for Credit Union Nation

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15 Feb 16

A special conference at the Scottish Parliament has heard calls to make Scotland a Credit Union Nation.

The event, organised by Convener of the Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Credit Unions John Wilson MSP and chaired by the Parliament’s Deputy Presiding Officer Elaine Smith MSP, attracted over 100 delegates from credit unions across Scotland – as well as key stakeholders and supporters – to discuss how Scotland’s credit union movement can develop, modernise and grow to serve even more people.

Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP (pictured with ABCUL’s Frank McKillop) reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to support the growth of credit unions, and gave his backing to ABCUL’s Credit Union Charter – the document which first introduced the concept of a Credit Union Nation.

Business Minister Fergus Ewing MSP outlined the practical measures the Scottish Government is pledging to take to help credit unions grow, including an emphasis on the business case for employers to partner with credit unions to facilitate saving and loan repayments through payroll deduction. The Scottish Government had earlier published its priorities for the movement’s development in its report Scotland’s Credit Unions: Investing in Our Future.

Delegates explored the issues more deeply in a series of workshops, which included an outline of ABCUL’s new training academy and an overview of the Automated Lending Decision (ALD) tool and Target Operating Model developed through the UK Government-funded Credit Union Expansion Project.

The event enjoyed support from across Scotland’s political parties, with workshop chairs including Convener of the Finance Committee Kenneth Gibson MSP, Scottish Labour frontbencher Ken Macintosh MSP, and the Independent MSP Jean Urquhart.

The conference closed with international perspectives from CUNA Mutual Europe Chief Executive Paul J Walsh and George Hofheimer from the Filene Research Institute, who encouraged Scotland’s credit unions to build on their historical success to respond to the needs of modern and future consumers and become a key part of the nation’s financial services sector.

John Wilson MSP said: "I was delighted with how the event turned out. Over 100 delegates from almost half the credit unions in Scotland discussed the future of the credit union industry here in the chamber. Credit unions are a vital service and have a long and proud history in Scotland. I have been planning this event for some time and I am glad it was such a successful day.”

ABCUL Chief Executive Mark Lyonette said: “This special conference at the Scottish Parliament is a great tribute to the work we’ve done over a number of years to engage with politicians to support credit unions and back the measures which will help the movement sustainably grow and flourish.

“We are very grateful to John Wilson for organising this event, and look forward to the movement, Government and stakeholders working together to make Scotland a Credit Union Nation.”

In Scotland, just over 100 credit unions serve 375,000 people – including 52,000 junior savers – who are saving £454 million and borrowing £276 million. Serving 7% of the population, Scotland has the fourth highest level of credit union membership in Europe, after only the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Poland.

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