Plans to make people in Scotland who are made bankrupt pay debts for four years rather than three will lead to "increased human misery" for people in financial crisis, debt advice groups are warning.

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will discuss a new bill on Wednesday which aims to reform the country's bankruptcy legislation. (If you've financial worries, see our Debt Advice guide for tips.)

But groups including StepChange Debt Charity, Christians Against Poverty, Money Advice Scotland, Citizens Advice and Glasgow's Govan Law Centre have teamed up to campaign against plans to force debtors to make an extra 12 months of payments to their creditors. This would see them pay more than in other parts of the UK.

Across the UK, bankruptcy usually lasts for a year. In Scotland, you may be expected to make regular contributions to your debts for up to three years. The Scottish Government wants to extend this period to four years.

The Scottish TUC, Church of Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland have also joined the protest against clause four of the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill.

"Longer payment periods result in more defaults, and increased human misery for those seeking rehabilitation from personal financial crisis," they warn in a letter in today's Herald newspaper, calling on MSPs to reject the clause.

"Now is not the time to make debtors pay more in Scotland."

Martin Lewis
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'Ill-considered and ill-advised'

Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre calls the change "ill-considered and-ill advised".

"It will mean Scots have to pay longer than anyone else in the UK," he adds.

"You are expecting people to live without disposable income, with only enough to pay essentials. Long term, that is unsustainable as cars break down, shoes need replacing, kids require new school clothes and boilers need replacing.

"Why is Scotland's government proposing to punish debtors when we ought to help them?"

A Scottish Government spokesperson says: "We consulted on this proposal and the majority of stakeholders who expressed a preference preferred a longer contribution period for bankruptcy of five years.

"In selecting a four-year payment period, the Scottish Government, as with other areas covered by this new bill, has aimed to seek a balance between the needs of debtors and the needs of creditors."

But Mike Dailly disputes the claim that most respondents to the Scottish Government's consultation backed the change. He says "an overwhelming majority" - 75% of respondents - believed there was no need for change.

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