Providing fair and equal access to finance for a stronger Scotland

04 Jun 2024

  • Financial Inclusion for Scotland

By Stephen Pearson, Chairman, Financial Inclusion for Scotland

In Scotland today, the stark reality of financial exclusion cannot be overstated. Over a million Scots live in poverty, struggling daily with the high costs of basic needs and the heavy toll of the "poverty premium" — where the less affluent pay more for essential services. This financial imbalance not only undermines individual dignity but also stymies Scotland’s collective economic potential.

As recent data from the FCA’s Financial Lives Survey vividly illustrates, a significant portion of our population faces immense challenges: 34% of adults in Scotland admit they are not coping financially, and many do not have even a month’s savings to cushion the blow of unexpected expenses. This is not just a personal crisis for those individuals; it is a societal issue that demands an urgent and structured response.

Our new two-year action-focused strategy from Financial Inclusion for Scotland represents a pivotal shift towards creating a more financially inclusive country. Our plan leverages the expanded scope of the Dormant Assets Scheme to catalyse essential funding into areas that desperately need it. By calling on the Scottish Government to strategically direct these assets, we aim to boost the provision of fair and affordable credit and ensure everyone has access to basic banking services, which are the bedrocks of financial inclusion.

But why focus so intensely on financial inclusion? Because access to fair financial services enables individuals to manage day-to-day expenses, absorb shocks, and invest in their futures. It empowers people, fostering a more resilient and prosperous society. Financial inclusion mitigates the risk of social exclusion and reduces the reliance on high-cost lending including illegal and predatory practices, which can spiral into deeper poverty."

Stephen Pearson

Chair, Financial Inclusion for Scotland

Our collaborative approach across government, private, and non-profit sectors underpins the strategy, ensuring that interventions are holistic and impactful. By fostering partnerships and nurturing innovative financial solutions, we can dismantle barriers and build pathways that uplift all individuals, especially the most vulnerable.

Tackling financial exclusion isn’t just about alleviating immediate financial distress. It’s about investing in the long-term vitality of Scotland’s economy and ensuring that growth and prosperity are shared equitably across our society. The journey to a more financially inclusive Scotland is crucial — not only as a matter of economic efficiency but as a testament to our values as a compassionate, forward-thinking nation. Let’s embrace this strategic opportunity to transform lives and strengthen our community fabric, ensuring that all Scots have access to fair and affordable credit, as and when they need it."

Stephen Pearson

Chair, Financial Inclusion for Scotland

(First published in The Herald on Monday 3rd June)