Advice.Scot: When Imitation is Poor Flattery

Advice.Scot: When Imitation is Poor Flattery

For some bizarre reason, Advice Direct Scotland, an independent Scottish Charity, and an Independent Member of the Scottish Association of Citizen Advice Bureaux, has decided to run a pay per click campaign to promote their Advice.Scot site using the name of this site, Advice Scotland.

To save I am peeved is an understatement.

I have been operating this personal blog site, on a not for profit basis, since 2013 (it’s predecessor was, with the sole purpose of supplying information to people interested in finding out more about their personal debt problems, like other blogs, such as Debt Camel.

I registered before Advice Direct Scotland’s online domain name was registered ( A site that I find to be a shallow, static site, with a few telephone numbers and an online search facility that allows access to external resources.  Basically very little on the site itself for those that access it.

A site that also states that the online name for Advice Scotland Direct is “Advice.Scot”.

If that is the case, then why are they using the online name for this site in the headings for their own Pay Per Click campaigns. Why not use their own online name?

What is most infuriating about this, is the likely result will be my readers, or people searching for my site being taken to the wrong site. A site that in my opinion is far inferior in quality and content. This may be unavoidable, as we all know there is no shortage of less than reputable companies out there that utilise marketing strategies that are intended to mislead internet users into believing they are visiting one site when they are visiting another. But for that situation to be created by a member of the Scottish Citizen Advice Bureaux? Really?

What is wrong with Advice Direct Scotland’s own online identity that they can’t use that for their campaigns? If I can give them a bit of advice, you need to work at it, its hard work and it takes time and commitment to build your online identity.

Advice Scotland

Since 2013, has always operated under the same name, Advice Scotland and had it’s own distinct brand and look, and through hard work I have built up a loyal following of readers who return each month, whilst attracting many more new ones. When people seek personalised advice in the comments boxes, as you will see, I refer them onto reputable providers of advice,  such as Scotland’s Citizen Advice Bureaux, the National Debtline and the Scottish Buisness Debtline, or I suggest they seek the advice of a professional.

A Labour of Love

The site has become a labour of love, and has become a major occupier of my time, trying to produce regular quality blogs, updates and videos.  Then there is the cost of maintaining a server service, keeping domain names registered and paying for software and SSL certificates to ensure the site remain safe for people to visit. All out of my own pocket.

Then there is the cost on my time. I don’t have marketing assistant, PPC campaign officers or desktop publishers: I have built this site from the ground up several times now, wrote all the blogs myself (and I am still trying to upload historic blogs from my previous site) and make all the videos myself.

I have been maintaining this site and its predecessor since 2010, nine years now, whilst also being a prolific contributor to the print and online journals of other people and organisations, such as that of the Scottish Legal Action Group, the Scottish Financial News, the Scottish Legal New, The Firm and the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. In any average week over the last 10 years (and some of the earliest blogs on this site date back to 2008), I have easily averaged 2 to 3 blogs a week on the issue of money advice. Hard work and commitment.

In addition to this I still have my day job as a Senior Money Adviser, managing staff, representing clients in courts and contributing to the development of debt policy in Scotland.

To then have another organisation to use the name of my blog (rather than their own online identity) is galling, particularly when their own debt resources on their site constitutes one or two paragraphs.

Now I can only assume the use of the Advice Scotland was intentional, but possibly it was an oversight that this was also the identity of my blog. If it was, I can only ask that going forward it is changed and I look forward to working with as part of the online money advice community in Scotland. debt advice page.

If it was not an oversight, I am flattered they like the name of my blog, Advice Scotland, but it is mine and surely they must appreciate more than anyone, just because you like it does not mean you can have it.

And what was I doing last night until 3am? Writing a blog and making a video. That is how you build a site.

Scottish Adviser

Prescription Begins Running on Default

Prescription Begins Running on Default

In light of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the  English case of Doyle v PRA Group UK Limited (2019 EWCA Civ 12), I am grateful for Paul Tilley of Wannops LLP for sharing a decision of the Scottish Sheriff Appeals court that was decided in October 2018, and has not previously been published on the Scottish Courts Website.

The decision, PRA Group Ltd v MacPherson, considered the same point considered in Doyle, advanced by the PRA Group in the Court of Appeal, and that is when does prescription begins running in a consumer credit agreement?

The decision by Sheriff Principal Turnbull found it began running, not on breach of the agreement, but when a default notice was served.

MacPherson, it is understood, was relied upon by the PRA Group in the Doyle case.

Scottish Government withdraw Common Financial Tool Regulations

Scottish Government Minister, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, has written the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee of the Scottish Parliament to withdraw the Common Financial Tool (Scotland) Regulations 2018.

The Regulations, which were intended to migrate Scotland onto the Standard Financial Statement method of calculating how much those in debt get to live on, were initially laid in June 2018, but then withdrawn in August 2018 (See here)

However, the Minister has written to the Committee again to withdraw them after critical evidence was given on the 6th November (see here), by a number of advice agencies and professionals. This followed on evidence given on the 30th October 2018 by Money Advice Scotland, the Money Advice Service, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and R3 (see here).

Mr Hepburn’s letter withdrawing the Regulations can be read here.

Common Financial Tool Regulations 2018

Common Financial Tool Regulations 2018

Although, Jamie Hepburn, Scottish Government Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills has written to the Scottish Parliament to withdraw the Common Financial Tool (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (see here), he has stated he intends to reinstate them after the summer recess.

This means the controversial regulations, which propose that the Standard Financial Statement will replace the Common Financial Statement, as Scotland’s preferred Common Financial Tool, will be relaid between the 2nd of September and the 6th of October 2018. 

The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee have stated submissions relating to the Regulations will still be allowed in meantime. 

My own submission can be seen here.

Paisley CAB faces Closure

Only months after Renfrewshire Law Centre closed,Paisley Citizen Advice Bureau is now facing closure.

The CAB which has existed for over 30 years, is facing a shortfall of £115,000 after it’s funding was cut to £242,000.

Renfrewshire Council recently put the funding of advice services out to tender.

The threatened closure follows the recent closure of Renfrewshire Law Centre and will follow the recent closure of North Ayrshire Citizen Advice Bureau.

The news comes after new information has arisen that shows across Scotland, local authority funded money advice services have suffered 45% cuts to their funding in the last three years, despite personal debt levels returning to pre credit crunch levels.

The cuts also come three years after the Scottish Government introduced the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act 2014, which made it a requirement for people in debt to obtain advice before they can access formal debt remedies like the Debt Arrangement Scheme and bankruptcy.

Since the Act was introduced in April 2015, numbers applying for both remedies have fallen by 46% and 32% respectively.

The CAB currently employs 22 staff members and has 42 volunteers.

Speaking about the threatened closure, Labour’s finance spokesperson, Alison Dowling said:

“I recognise the SNP’s support of the CAB, and that they provided the tendering process because they recognise how necessary it is.

“What I am urging the administration to do, is return to the financial support model under the previous administration, which provided core funding for the past seven years.

“I believe the SNP have acted in good faith in that they acknowledge how important the CAB is to the people for Renfrewshire and civic life, but the decision to put in place this open market tendering process, which does not take into account the core services, is simply incompetent.

“It would be disastrous, a catastrophe if the CAB was to close, and at present that is what is looking likely to happen.”

For more information see here.

Statutory Debt Advice Levy

Statutory Debt Advice Levy

The Tackling Problem Debt Working Group is a working group that has been established by the Scottish Government in response to the fact they will be taking responsibility for how the Financial Conduct Authority Debt Advice Levy is spent in Scotland.

The Group has stated it will be looking to develop a new debt route map, which will outline a vision for what steps are necessary to achieve a sustainable, effective and user-centred debt advice system in Scotland by 2025.

As Scotland’s local authority funded money advice services have suffered 45% cuts since 2014-15, I have drafted a paper outlining a proposal for a Scottish Debt Advice Levy and asked the Group to consider the proposal.

The proposal can be read here.

New Bankruptcy Fee Regulations Laid

The Accountant in Bankruptcy have laid new Bankruptcy Fee Regulations.

The Regulations, which are subject to the Negative Procedure of the Scottish Parliament are due to come into force on the 1st of June 2018.

They follow a consultation that was carried out by the Accountant in Bankruptcy, and unlike earlier Regulations that were withdrawn in 2017 (see here), are not expected to have any negative effects on debtors.

The Regulations can be found here.

Renfrewshire Law Centre to Close

An announcement on the website of Renfrewshire Law Centre has announced the service will close its doors on the 30th March 2018.

Only the latest in a number of advice centres that are closing, with the implementation of the Scottish Government’s budget by local councils, Renfrewshire Law Centre, previously known as Paisley Law Centre, was established in 1997.

It is understood Renfrewshire Council put out their advice services contract for tender and split it into two parts, with the legal advice and representation part, being cut from £110k to £95k. The advice part, currently provided by Renfrewshire Citizen Advice Bureaux, was only increased by £4k.

Renfrewshire Law Centre primarily assisted residents of the Renfrewshire area with rent and mortgage arrears an acted for clients in eviction and repossession cases.

It is not clear who, if anyone, in Renfrewshire, will now provide these vital front-line services.

A statement on the Centre’s website read:

“Where an ongoing client matter is not near conclusion, the client may seek advice on options for referring the matter to another practitioner.”

“Where an ongoing client matter can be concluded before the end of March, we will endeavour to conclude it.”

“Where an ongoing client matter is near conclusion, but requires some ancillary work after the end of March, we will endeavour to arrange for its conclusion at no additional fee cost to the client.”

The full statement can be read here.

Homeowners Not Receiving Regulated Advice

It has been revealed homeowners in receipt of Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI), who are being contacted about accepting Government loans that will replace the SMI benefit scheme in April, are being referred to advice agencies that cannot give them advice.

The revelation comes after Margaret Greenwood (MP) submitted a written question to the UK Government:

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which organisations Serco signposts Support for Mortgage Interest claimants to for advice on deciding whether to take out a loan from her Department to replace the benefit they are currently receiving; and whether such organisations are able to offer financial advice on taking out a loan.

Kit Malthouse, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) responded:

All existing recipients of Support for Mortgage Interest will be contacted and given information about the changes. The information leaflet and Frequently Asked Questions booklet point claimants to organisations who can offer impartial, free support. These include Money Advice Service, Shelter and Citizens Advice Bureau. These organisations do not offer regulated financial advice, however they can support claimants to understand the options available to them.

For more information on the new loan scheme, see here