20 March 2024   

During Debt Awareness Week, it's imperative to not only examine the statistics but also delve into the narratives surrounding debt in Scotland. While the numbers paint a stark picture of financial struggles, it's the language we use that can either compound or alleviate the burden. Here's a closer look at the landscape.


Personal Insolvencies   

In 2022-23, personal insolvencies in Scotland rose by 3.0%, reaching 8,001 cases. Bankruptcies increased by 2.3%, while Protected Trust Deeds (PTDs) saw a 3.3% uptick.

Household Debt

The average unsecured debt per client surged to £16,174 in 2022, according to StepChange's "Scotland in the Red" report. Notably, Glasgow had the highest number of clients seeking help, with an average debt of £13,072.

Consumer Credit Debt

Credit card debt and personal loans continue to be prevalent, with total unsecured debt in Scotland nearing £131 million in 2022. Credit card debt accounted for £49 million, while personal loans totalled nearly £42 million.

Energy Debt

The average electricity debt per client stood at £908, highlighting significant disparities across constituencies. Alarmingly, a substantial percentage of clients were in arrears with their electricity bills, indicating widespread financial strain.

Council Tax Debt 

Council tax debt remains a significant burden, with the average debt for Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) clients exceeding £3,420—nearly three times the average council tax bill. CABs handled over £10 million in council tax debt from more than 2,000 clients between October 2022 and September 2023.


While these statistics underscore the urgency of addressing debt issues, it’s important to reflect on some of the reasons why people may delay or avoid addressing money worries and unmanageable debt. One of the most common reasons being fear of judgement; receiving a lack of empathy and support because debt may be ‘their fault’, due to ‘irresponsible money management’, ‘living above their means’ and so on. The prevalence of labelling, shaming, and blaming in society’s discourse around money and debt, as well as the resulting attitudes towards financial challenges and capabilities, are significant barriers to accessing support. That’s why we’re calling for compassionate communication and an end to the use of stigmatising language when it comes to taking about personal finances and financial challenges.

Our Dignity First campaign aims to reshape the narrative surrounding financial challenges, emphasising compassion and understanding over judgement. Stigmatising language not only creates barriers but also perpetuates negative stereotypes, contributing to feelings of shame and isolation among those facing financial difficulties.

As we navigate Debt Awareness Week, let's remember the power of language in shaping perceptions and attitudes. By adopting person-first language and challenging stereotypes, we can foster a more inclusive environment where individuals feel empowered to seek support without fear of judgement.