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EDINBURGh, Scotland – If you can’t lick `em, join `em, or better yet have them join you. Capital Credit Union has just taken a giant step in improving credit union-legislative relationships. The Scottish Parliament has become one of their sponsoring organizations, and all 1,000 employees from clerks to members of parliament (MSP) are now eligible to join the credit union. Forty joined the first day according to Marlene Shiels, Capital CU General Manager. The Scotish Parliament itself is only two years old. Under the Tony Blair-led Labour Party in the United Kingdom, the Scots voted to have more authority over their own affairs. This is the first time since James VI of Scotland succeeded Queen Elizabeth I to the English thrown in 1603 that the Scots have had their own legislative branch. Of course, in those days, there were no credit unions. A new parliament building is under construction at the foot of Edinburgh Castle. At the official launch in early May, Cathy Jamieson, Deputy Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament was among the MSPs celebrating the expanded membership of Capital Credit Union. Minister of Social Justice Jackie Baillie and Presiding Officer Sir David Steel also attended the launch. Jamieson said, “Credit unions are currently viewed as providers of financial services for those in disadvantaged areas who do not have access to financial services. The cross party support seen at the launch of the credit union facilities for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive show the public that credit unions are also a viable alternative to traditional banking and financial services.” The Parliament is the most high profile group any credit union could get. Support is more then just membership. Baillie brought together both legislators and credit union professionals to work on a national development strategy on financial services. Shiels was a member, and although formal meeting, were few there was a great deal of behind the scenes dialog both in interviews and phone conversations. Capital Credit Union is the fourth largest credit union in the United Kingdom with 8,000 members and 7 million (US $9.8 million). Most credit unions are limited to 5,000 members, although this rule is changing. Scotland has been particularly successful in growing credit unions and asking the former regulatory body, the Registrar of Friendly Societies, for exemptions to the size rule. The authority regulating Scottish Credit Unions will change to the Financial Services Authority, and it was the FSA that gave the okay for the Scottish Parliament to be added to Capital’s common bond. Shiels was one of 36 people who attended a recent Credit Union Development program in Madison, Wis. Only four attendees were not from the U.S. She saw many small credit unions that were full service. Although she’s from a small country, Shiels said she realized that there is no need to think small. Armed with many ideas, she and the board have developed a three-year strategy. Capital’s office is about to move to larger quarters. Their recent growth has necessitated an increase of 25% in staff and people are almost sitting in each other laps, she said. The move will be in a few weeks, but only down the street. Shiels jokes that everyone will grab something and walk to the new office. No matter where they are located, like other Scottish credit unions with a geographically spread out members, off the street traffic is considered small. Capital works with volunteer representatives in their different sponsoring organizations to answer questions and hand out paper work. Whether Parliament members chose to stroll down the street to the new offices, or to use the representative system, Capital will be able to show each MSP who joins that credit union membership has a very real advantage. It’s a challenge that Shiels is looking forward to. -

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