Credit Union for the Borders to be launched

Monday September 11th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

A credit union based in West Lothian will soon be offering vital services in the Scottish Borders with the Covid-19 pandemic helping to make it a reality.

For many years there have been calls for an active credit union to operate in the region, offering low-interest loans.

Now it is about to become a reality after Caledonian Credit Union launched discussions with Peebles Citizens Advice Bureau and the town’s foodbank over ways it could operate and maintain a presence within the Borders.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in increased digitalisation, John McClay, of Caledonian Credit Union, told members of SBC’s Community Planning Strategic Board this week.

This has enabled the launch of the credit union in the Borders, he revealed.

Mr McClay explained: “There have been several attempts in the Borders to bring a credit union in and one of the issues was bricks and mortar, with a building having to be situated somewhere and where do you put it.

“But the onset of Covid changed things and we had to be creative and change and we had to reach our members somehow because the face-to-face option was no longer available to us and the answer was digitalisation.

“Now 95 per cent of our work is digital. Members join and borrow online and telephone us for any issues. We have very few members who call into the office.

“This digitalisation will benefit the Borders. Effectively all we need is a back office, which we offer, and an effective marketing campaign in the area and that will lead to having a strong and effective credit union in the area. This is the way forward for the Borders.

“We’re not a panacea to poverty but we are a cog in the wheel.”

The aim is to launch the service in the Borders within weeks with an advertising campaign.

Credit unions started in the UK in 1979 and there are just over 80 in Scotland with over 375,000 adult members.

Caledonian Credit Union works out of a base in Livingston and has three thousand members, issuing loans totalling up to £1m a year.

What is a Credit Union?

The first credit union in Britain began trading in 1964, and over the last 50 years, credit unions have grown to provide loans and savings to more than 1.2 million people across England, Scotland and Wales.

Credit unions have a proven track record across the world. In fact, 217 million people are credit union members in 105 different countries.

A credit union is a financial co-operative which provides savings, loans and a range of services to its members. It is owned and controlled by the members.

Each member has one vote and volunteer directors are elected from the membership, by the membership.

Credit unions are owned by the people who use their services, and not by external shareholders or investors. So the emphasis is always on providing the best service to members – not maximising profits.

Membership of a credit union is based on a common bond. This can be working for a particular employer or in a particular industry, or simply living or working in a specified geographical area which could be as small as a village or as large as several local authority areas.

Credit unions come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking for a credit union with online and phone banking, a payroll partnership with your employer, a local branch or service point you can walk into – or a combination of all three – there’s a good chance you’ll find the credit union you’re looking for to meet your needs.

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