By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie, pictured left, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has demanded a “Covid Debt Amnesty” for families suffering a pandemic related domestic debt crisis.
She said that the Scottish and UK governments should intervene to tackle the debt burden facing workers furloughed or made unemployed during Covid.
Arrears on household bills and council tax bills incurred by low income families during the pandemic should be suspended by the Scottish Government.
West Dunbartonshire Council, which is continuing throughout the pandemic to collect money owed to it should also suspend collecting debts.
Baillie said that the relief should apply for the rest of the Holyrood parliamentary session, the same timescale Scottish Labour has demanded for an evictions ban.
Outstanding debts to pay day loan companies, banks and credit agencies should also be tightly regulated on a permanent basis, with interest payments and fees curbed or waived by the UK Government.
The relief package for debt ravaged families would apply to low paid employees as well as workers forced onto furlough or who lost their jobs and are on welfare benefit.
Jackie Baillie said: “Christmas and the New Year are always periods that lead to a surge in debt for poorer and hard- pressed families.
“Nine months of Covid hardship will inevitably make this burden so much worse for households.
“A huge personal debt crisis is being caused by Covid as people being furloughed or losing their jobs and others on welfare benefits are unable to pay their rents, mortgages and other essential bills.
“This is made worse by the high level of interest rates being charged and by unscrupulous lenders. “This is causing immense stress and hardship for many people struggling to get by.
“It’s also holding back a post pandemic economic recovery and could risk another financial crisis as the debt becomes unsustainable.
“The Scottish and UK Governments must use their respective powers to introduce a ‘Covid Debt Amnesty’ for furloughed and unemployed workers as well as those on low incomes and benefit.
“Making this commitment over the Christmas and New Year period would go a long way to ease the debt worries that so many Scots have at this time of year, and which will have been intensified by Covid.”