Financial inclusion for Scotland launched to provide better access to fair and affordable financial services

Stephen Pearson Chair Financial Inclusion for Scotland with Sharon MacPherson CEO Scotcash

A GROUP of Scotland’s leading policy makers and professionals from across the private, charity and not-for-profit sectors have come together to create a new organisation to tackle financial exclusion.

Financial Inclusion for Scotland was launched today with the aim of enabling better financial inclusion in Scotland by supporting those who find it difficult to access fair or affordable financial services, such as free banking, affordable credit and money management services.

Managed by Social Investment Scotland (SIS), Financial Inclusion for Scotland is formed of ten founding members from across the commercial and not-for-profit sectors with a shared commitment to find new ways to expand financial inclusion in Scotland. Founding members include Scottish Financial Enterprise, Fintech Scotland, the Money and Pensions Service and Scotcash.

Financial Inclusion for Scotland has been established to pick up and progress the agenda from the Carnegie Working Group on Affordable Credit, which drew to a conclusion in 2021. The group is chaired by Stephen Pearson, a veteran of Scotland’s financial services industry with many years’ experience in promoting the financial inclusion agenda. Formerly of RBS Group and Virgin Money, Stephen was also a Trustee of the Virgin Money Foundation and a founding member of the Carnegie Trust Working Group.

Having retired from banking in 2019, Stephen helped Fintech Snoop (which uses open banking technology to provide money management tools) to build partnerships with financial wellbeing agencies. Stephen currently sits on the Advisory Board of salary deduction lender, Salary Finance, and has recently been appointed Chair of Castle Community Bank, the Edinburgh based credit union.

The launch of Financial Inclusion for Scotland comes at a time when many households across Scotland are struggling to deal with the dual impacts of Covid and the ongoing cost of living crisis. According to research carried out by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), in 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has widened pre-existing gaps for low-income households when it comes to everyday borrowing and keeping up with bills. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that more people are using unlicensed money lenders or loan sharks than pre COVID-19.

Financial Inclusion for Scotland will be holding its first conference on 9th November with the Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP confirmed as keynote speaker.

Stephen Pearson, Chair of Financial Inclusion for Scotland said: “Enabling better financial inclusion should play a key role in an inclusive Scotland. The cost-of-living crisis has brought into sharp relief the huge struggles that many people in Scotland face managing their household budgets.  

“By working with Scottish Government, some of the brilliant third sector agencies, the Fintech community and Financial Services groups, we hope to find new ways to provide those who need it most with access to affordable credit, stigma free debt advice and smart phone money management tools.

“We also hope to stimulate fresh investment into this sector through new partnerships and more coherent policies, while developing practical and innovative solutions that can have a real impact on the ground. Our work has just begun but I’m convinced we can make a significant difference as a collective.”

Alastair Davis, chief executive of SIS said: “SIS has been supporting the expansion of affordable credit provision for more than 20 years, so we are delighted to be taking a leading role in helping to drive forward Scotland’s financial inclusion agenda. At a time when many people are struggling to pay for basic food and heating, a situation that will only worsen in the coming months, the role of CDFIs will become increasingly important.

“As locally-rooted social enterprises which exist to provide finance to people and businesses who can’t get what they need from banks, we need these CDFIs to plug widening gaps in the market for affordable credit. One of our key jobs at Financial Inclusion for Scotland is to look at innovative ways we can expand this vital market to provide a lifeline for communities across Scotland.”

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