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EDITIONS
Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Debt scheme 'dog's breakfast'
Red debt stamp alongside an overdue bill
The executive says the focus will be on debt advice
Scotland's socialist MSP, who has campaigned for the abolition of warrant sales, has branded a new system of debt collection as a "dog's breakfast".

Tommy Sheridan spoke out in parliament as MSPs were urged by the Scottish Executive to approve the proposed new arrangements.

The system will replace the controversial poindings - the pricing of confiscated possessions - and subsequent warrant sales which the parliament voted to abolish two years ago.

Ministers were given two years to allow them to come up with an alternative form of debt collection.

Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan: "Dog's breakfast"

Now the new system has been attacked for continuing to have, as a last resort, Exceptional Attachment Orders (EAOs) which would allow the seizure and sale of a debtor's property in certain circumstances.

Social Justice Minister Margaret Curran said proposals in the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Bill centred on advice and assistance with repayment.

She said: "We are absolutely determined to give the help and support needed to get people back on their feet.

"And with a bit of dignity, to regain control in doing so, to get more debt paid in a managed way and avoid the time and cost of enforcement."

But the minister insisted that there was a need for enforcement for those with the means but not the will to pay their debts.

Mr Sheridan said the EAOs plan flouted the will of parliament and described the Bill as "no more than a dog's breakfast".

'Fear and humiliation'

He said: "It is messy, it is incomplete and exposes the Scottish Executive's over-riding concern, which is to placate the legal establishment and the credit industry instead of humanising and modernising debt recovery for 21st century Scotland."

Mr Sheridan said EAOs were no different to warrant sales and would be "used against ordinary debtors as a tool of fear and humiliation".

Labour MSP Bill Butler was also critical of the new measures.

Margaret Curran
Margaret Curran: "Fairer system"

He said: "The minister will know that many people have serious concerns, sincerely held, that because personal possessions can still be used to offset debt, that this Bill is really poindings and warrant sales by another name."

This was denied by the minister, who said the orders would affect only a tiny minority who flatly refused to repay.

Scottish National Party social justice spokesman Kenny Gibson said his party would back the general principles of the Bill, but would introduce "radical changes" during the next parliamentary stage.

He called on ministers to drop the EAOs, saying he was "disappointed" that the executive had refused to do so.

Tory leader David McLetchie said his party supported the Bill and criticised Mr Sheridan and the SNP for refusing to participate in the working party which drew it up.

Liberal Democrat social justice spokesman Robert Brown said the old system of debt recovery was outdated and that the Bill offered a replacement.

MSPs agreed to the general principals of the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Bill by 80 votes to four with 28 abstentions.

See also:

08 May 02 | Scotland
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
06 Jul 01 | Scotland
06 Dec 00 | Scotland
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