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GLASGOW, Scotland – “Credit unions have an important role to play in helping us tackle financial exclusion,” Scottish Executive Deputy Minister for Communities Mary Mulligan told the 300 delegates at the fall conference of the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd. (ABCUL) held in November. The Scottish Executive oversees health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport issues for Scotland. The post was founded in 1999 after the first Scottish Parliament Elections and is a coalition between the Labour and Liberal Democratic Parties. Mulligan called on credit unions to “do what you do best – offer the financial products that people most need,” but she recognized that credit unions are also businesses and do not replace welfare bureaus. The Executive Deputy Minister complimented what credit unions were already doing: “You provide a much needed service offering fair loans whilst at the same time creating a savings ethos. Saving regularly can break the cycle of poverty by helping people to provide for their futures and equip themselves to prepare for emergencies or unexpected events.” She encouraged the development of more strong credit unions in Scotland. Currently Scotland has some of the largest credit unions in the United Kingdom. Scottish credit unions sought and were granted exemption to the strict size regulation once imposed on credit unions. Legislation under the Financial Services Authority which went into effect July 2002, has since loosened those restrictions. Mulligan mentioned the World Council of Credit Unions’ PEARLS accounting system that is being used by ABCUL to monitor sustainability as a good step to protect the financial integrity of existing and developing credit unions. She advised credit unions to “consider the potential membership base. Look at what the wider financial market is providing. Work with local partners. Develop the core business of the credit union and then consider what the community needs. Through hard work and a clear customer focus, credit unions can become real players in the financial market. The challenge is to be proactive. The key to every successful business is a strong customer focus. I believe credit unions have fantastic potential to become dynamic vibrant local businesses focused on their customer’s needs. Stable, self-sufficient businesses who retain their social focus and are equipped to help us in our fight against financial exclusion.” -

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