Austerity behind rise in personal insolvencies, Holyrood minister claims

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A 17% increase in personal insolvencies has been brought about after continuing Westminster austerity resulted in "incomes being squeezed", Holyrood's business minister said.

Paul Wheelhouse made the comments after the latest data showed debts forced 2,839 people to either become bankrupt or take out a protected trust deed over the period April to June 2017.

The figure is up from 2,420 in the same period of 2016.

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."

While personal insolvencies increased, the latest data from Accountant in Bankruptcy showed a fall in businesses suffering the fate.

Corporate insolvencies for April to June totalled 200, compared to 265 the previous year, a fall of 24.5%.

Mr Wheelhouse said these "welcome low corporate insolvency numbers come in the wake of recent statistics which reveal unemployment at a record low, the Scottish employment rate rising and GDP figures showing Scotland's growth rate to be four times that of the UK".

On the number of people being made insolvent, he said it was important to "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".

He stressed: "The Scottish Government will work tirelessly to protect those individuals facing financial hardship by working towards reducing poverty and inequalities in Scotland.

"By investing in financial education and backing debt management products such as the pioneering debt arrangement scheme, we aim to provide all in Scotland methods to be able to handle their finances more effectively."

Scottish Conservative 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."