Aberdeenshire households have highest personal debt in Scotland

A report published by the UK’s biggest debt advice charity has found that households in Aberdeenshire have an average personal debt of £18,302, higher than anywhere else in Scotland. 

North East Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles is backing calls from StepChange Debt Charity for the Financial Conduct Authority to look at tightening the regulations around the payday loan market


The study shows that the regulations currently in place have “not fixed” the payday lending market, with some payday loan providers still not engaging in best practise. Last year, 12% of those who contacted StepChange Debt Charity from the North East had a payday loan debt, with their average payday debt balance at £1,301.


Mr Rumbles said: “Households in Aberdeenshire have the highest personal debt average in Scotland, and many other parts of the North East are not far behind.


“The downturn in North Sea oil and gas has hit many individuals, families and communities extremely hard, and neither the Scottish nor UK Governments are doing enough to support struggling households. In fact, with cuts to local services, the Scottish Government are making matters worse.


“So it comes as no surprise that some people are turning to short term high interest loans to help make ends meet. Creating a downward spiral of debt that it can be very hard to break.


“Stepchange are quite right in calling for both our governments to act now. Certainly more can be done to support people in the North East and protect them from loan schemes that intentionally bend or overstep the rules.”


Stepchange Debt Charity Scotland’s Public Affairs Officer James Stewart said: “Regulation can make a significant difference to broken markets and FCA action over the last few years has gone some way to fixing the worst excesses of payday lending, but there is clearly still work to be done.


“Poor lending practices and the poor treatment of people in financial difficulty have serious consequences. They trap people in a cycle of repeated borrowing and as their balances continue to mount, so does the stress and anxiety that comes with severe problem debt.


“It is essential that the FCA review of the payday lending cap is broad enough to fix areas of consumer detriment and poor lending practices. There is also a clear and immediate need for the Government to examine more affordable forms of borrowing for financially vulnerable people, who are often left with nowhere else to turn in their hour of need.”




Notes to editors:


  • See attachments for a full breakdown of debt in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire & the North East.


  • https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/payday-lenders-failing-customers-arrears-says-fca
  • StepChange Debt Charity conducted a survey among its clients to find out their experiences of using payday loans. The sample was StepChange Debt Charity clients who came to the charity for advice between 2015-2016 and had all applied for HCSTC after January 2015. We had 530 respondents between 1 August and 14 August 2016.
  • Payday loans are relatively small sums lent over a short period of time at a high interest rate. They were previously lent for around 30 days but can now be longer term instalment loans of two months to a year. This research covers both these loan types using the FCA definition of ‘high-cost short-term credit’: any regulated credit agreement that has an APR equal to or exceeding 100% and is provided for a maximum of 12 months and is not a doorstep loan, bill of sale loan or overdraft.
  • Figures from StepChange Debt Charity clients from before the regulations and in 2016. The numbers shown are for the whole of 2014, and for the first half of 2016 (January to June inclusive):




Average balance



Proportion of clients with payday loan debt



Proportion with three loans or more



Number of people with payday loan debt

75,000 (full year)

28,000 (half year)

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