An Explosion In Problem Debt In Scotland

Scotland is seeing an ``explosion in problem debt'' from payday lending, with one charity reporting almost one in five of those it helps are struggling with these short-term loans.

StepChange Debt CharityScotland said there had been a dramatic rise in debts from payday lending, with 18.2% of the people it helped in the first half of this year having at least one of these loans. 

That is double the 9% of people coming for help who had payday loan debts in 2012 and seven times the amount from 2010, when just 2.6% of people contacting the charity had taken out this form of borrowing. 

By June this year payday lending debts accounted for 10.3% of the total debts of people contacting the StepChange Debt Charity Scotland - higher than in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. 

The figures were released in a new report Scotland in the Red, which was published by the money charity. 

Sharon Bell, head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland, said: ``This is the first time the charity has looked in detail at the pattern of debt in Scotland and it has revealed some startling results. 

``The explosion in problem debt from payday lending, and the steady growth in numbers with priority debt arrears, is a clear indication that more and more Scottish families are finding it difficult to make any disposable income cover basic household costs.'' 

She added that their new report would ``enable us to track the scale of problem debt in Scotland in what for many is an uncertain economic future''. 

StepChange Debt Charity Scotland advised 3,451 people in the first six months of this year and helped 4,559 people in 2012. 

Its clients in Scotland had the highest value of council tax arrears of the four nations of the UK in 2012, according to the report, with average debts in this area of £1,312 - almost double the UK average of £783. 

But in Glasgow the average value of council tax arrears reached £1,712. Last year 29% of people in Scotland who went to the charity for help were behind with their council tax payments, compared to 27% across the UK. 

Just over a third (35%) of those contacting StepChange Debt Charity Scotland in 2012 had mortgage arrears, but this rose to 40% in the first six months of this year. 

Average mortgage arrears also rose slightly over the same period, to £2,353 in the first half of 2013. 

People in Scotland seeking help from the charity in 2012 had the highest level of electricity arrears in the UK at £542, compared to the UK average of £516. 

But just under one in ten (9.7%) of people helped in Scotland owed money to their electricity provider, compared to 13.4% of those seeking help in England and 10.4% of those needing advice in Wales. 

People contacting the charity in Scotland had the lowest average debt of the four UK nations and Scotland was also the only part of the UK last year where where the average income of £14,280 was larger than the average debt, which stood at £14,149.