Press release: Four in ten Scottish adults are not in control of their finances

Thursday 14 January 2016

The Money Advice Service and the UK Financial Capability Board today publish the findings of the most comprehensive research ever done into Scotland’s ability and attitudes to managing money. It found that around 40 per cent of adults in Scotland are not in control of their finances, whether that’s because they don’t know their current account balance, don’t feel their approach to budgeting works or cannot keep up with their bills and commitments without difficulty.

Key findings include:

  • 37% of people in Scotland do not know their bank balance within £50
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 people in Scotland have financial goals and plans to achieve them
  • 1 in 7 people in Scotland are over indebted
  • Nearly a fifth of people in Scotland are reliant on credit

The survey, conducted amongst over 1,100 people across Scotland shows that Scottish money management skills remain stubbornly low. Like the rest of the UK, people in Scotland take a ‘live for today’ attitude and far too few are prepared for financial shocks. However, whilst the overall picture is bleak, the findings show that six out of ten people have savings of £500 or more which could cover an unexpected bill.

This lack of financial awareness leaves people ill-equipped to cope with periods of high expenditure like Christmas. The Money Advice Service found that almost one in three (30%) people in the UK felt pressured to spend more than they could afford over the festive period and as a result January sees a surge in debt advice enquiries. The Service is running a Survive January campaign to help people to better manage their short term finances.

Commenting on the findings, Allison Barnes, Scotland Manager, Money Advice Service, said: “It is worrying to see that many Scottish adults are not confident managing their money and failing to deal with issues around debt. However, the findings do show that Scots are marginally more in control of their finances and prepared for potential difficulties than the rest of the UK.

“We are making good progress in Scotland and have recently announced our continuation of free debt advice provision through the Scottish Legal Aid Board. The Financial Capability Strategy will make sure that product providers, charities, Government and all other third parties are working towards a shared ambition to better support people with their day-to-day financial needs.”

Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess MSP, said: “While it is encouraging to see people living in Scotland are above the UK average when it comes to keeping track of money and managing their credit cards, there are still many financially vulnerable people who need the right advice to balance their budgets.

“Scottish Government wants to remove the barriers that exist to managing money and increase the financial capability of people in Scotland.

“The Scotland Financial Capability Strategy will help tackle these inequalities and ensure people have better access to money advice in the future. This work complements the Scottish Government’s vision of a Financial Health Service for Scotland which includes the Scotland’s Financial Health Service web portal and telephone helpline and debt management measures through the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act.”

The research will be used to support the Scotland Financial Capability Strategy; a ten-year plan to raise Scotland’s money management skills.

Information about the Financial Capability Strategy can be found at


Notes to Editors

*Based on modelling work by CACI for Money Advice Service, October 2015

Financial Capability Survey 2015

  • Survey of adults aged 18+ conducted by GfK for the Money Advice Service.
  • Online and face-to-face interviews between April and July 2015.
  • Scotland data based on 1,101 interviews and UK data based on 3,461 interviews.
  • Data weighted to be representative of the Scotland and UK adult populations.

Survive January Research

Opinium interviewed 2,001 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ during December 2015. The research covered people’s approach to spending over the festive period.

About the Scotland Forum

The Scotland Forum was set up in 2012, to act in an advisory capacity to the Money Advice Service, informing the organisation on key issues facing people in Scotland, and advising on the impact of our plans on people.

The current members of the Scotland Forum have agreed to widen their scope to ensure that the recommendations within the Financial Capability Strategy for Scotland and the UK are delivered and remain relevant to the unique requirements, funding arrangements and stakeholders within Scotland.

The membership has been widened to ensure the group has appropriate sector wide representation and knowledge to deliver these recommendations. More information can be found at

About Financial Capability Board

The Financial Capability Board’s membership includes senior and influential representatives from government, regulators, the financial sector and key charities from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who together can deliver maximum impact. The Financial Capability Board is chaired by Andy Briscoe and the Money Advice Service acts as the Board’s secretariat. You can view more information about the board members at

For more information please contact:

Money Advice Service Press Office

020 7947 5315 /