Scotland business

Business minister blames insolvency rise on 'austerity'

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Scotland's business minister has blamed "continuing austerity" for a sharp rise in personal insolvencies.

The last quarter saw insolvencies rise year-on-year by 17.3% to 2,839, according to official figures.

Paul Wheelhouse claimed there was "no question" austerity had led to "more people suffering the anxiety and distress of insolvency".

The Scottish Conservatives called on the Scottish government to do more to help people deal with personal debt.

Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), which administers the process of bankruptcy and records corporate insolvencies, said personal bankruptcies increased by 11.2% year-on-year to 1,289 in the three months to 30 June.

Protected trust deeds rose 22.9% over the same period to 1,550.

The number of debt payment programmes under the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) - which allows debtors to pay their debts in full without facing insolvency - were also up by 16.8%, to 597.

A total of £9.4m was repaid through DAS in the latest quarter, up from £9.3m repaid in the same period last year.

Image caption Paul Wheelhouse said there was "no question that continuing austerity has led to incomes being squeezed"

Responding to the figures, Mr Wheelhouse said: "On the personal insolvency front, there is no question that continuing austerity has led to incomes being squeezed and more people suffering the anxiety and distress of insolvency as a result.

"But it is nevertheless important we acknowledge that the longer term trend of people accessing statutory debt relief and debt management solutions is a declining one‎ and numbers of people falling into insolvency are around half of the levels reported at the turn of the decade."

The Scottish Conservatives said the personal insolvency figures showed "just how much some are struggling".

'Sea of debt'

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "It's incredibly worrying to see such a sharp increase in the number of Scots going bankrupt.

"Given the lacklustre growth in the Scottish economy over the last year, we are starting to see the consequences of it as more and more people are struggling in a sea of debt.

"These individuals will be going through an incredibly tough time and it is incumbent upon the Scottish government to do all they can to support them.

"One step the SNP could take immediately would be to boost long-term economic growth and job creation by reversing their tax hikes that have made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK."

The latest AiB figures also showed a sharp drop in the number of Scottish businesses becoming insolvent or entering receivership.

In the last quarter, there were 200 corporate insolvencies - a drop of 24.5%.

The figure included 118 compulsory liquidations and 82 creditor voluntary liquidations.

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