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Bankruptcy numbers level off in Scotland

Published: 25 Apr 2018 13:00

Accountant in Bankruptcy provisional figures for 2017-18 show similar sequestration numbers year-on-year.

Provisional figures from Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) reveal 4,540 bankruptcy awards for the year 2017-18, down on the 4,562 awarded for the previous year.

However, total personal insolvencies, which include both bankruptcies and protected trust deeds (PTDs), rose slightly by 4.7%, driven by an increase in PTDs. There were 5,963 PTDs in 2017-18.

There were welcome signs people struggling with debt in Scotland are seeking to regain control of their finances with a 4.0% increase in the number of debt payment programmes approved under the Scottish Government’s pioneering Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS). Throughout 2017-18, 2,322 DAS debt payment programmes were approved helping those in debt to take control, without facing insolvency and protected from further action being taken against them.

The number of DAS programmes completed rose to 1,681 from 1,603 in 2016-17, a 4.9% increase. A total of £37.6 million was repaid through the scheme last year.

Commenting on the latest figures, Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said:

“These provisional figures from Accountant in Bankruptcy very much appear to be in line with the UK-wide picture, for personal and company insolvency numbers.

“The number of individuals entering insolvency continues to be lower than 10 years ago.

“However, we are under no illusion that, for some people, insolvency is the only means by which they can get a fresh start from the unmanageable burden of their debts, particularly those financially vulnerable families impacted the hardest by the UK Government’s cruel and unnecessary austerity agenda.

“Here in Scotland, we are working hard to be at the forefront of debt relief policy across the world and we will shortly be seeking to introduce further measures to widen the access to our successful Debt Arrangement Scheme.

“DAS has already helped repay over £200 million of debts owed, while removing any fears of creditor challenge or racking up further interest and charges. Future changes to DAS we have planned will make it even more flexible and appealing to those suffering problem debt.

The number of Scots businesses closing their doors rose slightly in 2017-18 compared to the previous year, with 886 corporate insolvencies recorded, a 4.7% rise from 846 throughout 2016-17.

The Minister added: “The economic environment our industries are competing in remains a challenging one and this is reflected in the numbers of companies which have been forced out of business.

“I will do all I can to safeguard our key industries in Scotland and lessen the financial impact on our communities caused when employers close.

“Our businesses are facing enormous challenges and uncertainty. Despite these pressures, corporate insolvencies are in line with the trend in recent years.”

The figures from AiB show the number of personal and corporate insolvencies for the fourth quarter of 2017-18. During the quarter between January and March 2018, there were 2,501 personal insolvencies, down 0.6% on the 2,516 reported in the same quarter a year ago.

This figure was made up of 1,038 bankruptcies, down from the 1,116 in quarter four of 2016-17 and 1,463 protected trust deeds, an increase of 63 from the same quarter a year ago.

There were 259 corporate insolvencies in the quarter, up from 155. However, corporate insolvencies in the fourth quarter of 2016-17 were abnormally low, indicating a return to levels seen in previous years.

A total of 490 approved debt payment programmes under DAS in the quarter, with a total of £9.3 million paid through the scheme.