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Rangers considering using Ibrox as security against new loan

LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland’s Rangers football club, battling to raise cash to stay afloat, said on Monday it was in talks to agree new funding which could use the club’s Ibrox stadium as security.

Rangers, the 54-times Scottish champions who had to reform as a fourth-tier club in 2012 after being wound up, said it was in talks with two of its stakeholders about raising funds to bolster the team, and that part of a deal could include using Ibrox as protection.

“Such a decision would not be taken lightly,” said the club.

According to media reports, two stakeholders – Sports Direct founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, and a wealthy consortium called the Three Bears – are separately ready to provide 10 million pound loans, with Ashley reported to want Ibrox as protection.

Rangers, which have also recently rejected two takeover deals, said it continued to need further, urgent short-term funding but that at the current time its assets, cash flow and business did not support a significant financing, leaving the stadium deal as an increasingly viable option.

It said it could also not issue shares in the club in the timeframe required.

In a separate statement, former Rangers director Dave King, whose New Oasis Asset Management vehicle owns almost 15 percent of the club, called for a general meeting to put forward resolutions for the removal of several directors.

King wants Chairman David Somers, CEO Derek Llambias, Finance Chief Barry Leach and James Easdale to be removed and himself and two others to be appointed directors. Rangers said it intended to have the notice withdrawn to avoid extra costs.

“In the meantime the directors will not be distracted from the more important matter of securing the future of the business,” it said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Neil Maidment)

FinanceBoard & Management ChangesRangers football clubIbrox stadium […]

Rangers in crisis: Latest emergency loan taken to avoid HMRC winding up order

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SANDY EASDALE’S £500,000 emergency loan to Rangers is to help the club avoid being wound up by HM Revenue and Customs, BBC Scotland has reported.

Cash-strapped Gers announced the interest free loan this morning while also confirming an approach from US banker and basketball tycoon Robert Sarver.

It is understood Rangers received a seven-day notice at the end of December for the payment of national insurance.

In a statement to the stock exchange this morning the club said Easdale’s loan this morning was designed to provide “working capital” in the coming days.

The Easdale family’s adviser Jack Irvine said: “Once again Sandy has stepped up to the plate with this half million pound loan from his own pocket. Whilst we welcomed the recent share purchases by Dave King and Douglas Park and his consortium this unfortunately did not put any funds into the club.

“Sandy was the only option for this cash injection at such short notice. The Easdale family remain totally committed to achieving a satisfactory financial future for Rangers and they hope all parties can work together in the future with that common goal.”

Rangers announced the new loan deal to the stock exchange as they confirmed that Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA basketball team, had made an approach that may or may not lead to an offer to buy the club.

Sarver’s interest had emerged on Sunday but his approach to the Rangers board came before almost a third of the club’s shares were snapped up by a combination of Dave King and the so-called Three Bears – George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park.

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Easdale’s loan will be secured on income from the recent sale of Lewis Macleod, who signed for Brentford on Friday for an undisclosed fee that was reported as £1million.

Macleod has been the team’s most impressive performer this season and his displays earned the 20-year-old midfielder a place in the most recent Scotland squad, but his exit came as Rangers bid to recoup annual losses of £8.3million.

Rangers previously announced his sale had been necessary to provide funds for working capital and the urgent nature of those needs was laid bare in their most recent statement, which revealed that football club chairman Easdale’s interest-free loan of up to £500,000 would be used for “general working capital purposes over the next few days”.

The statement added: “Alexander Easdale will make available to the company up to £500,000 on a fee and interest free basis and it will be secured against the income from the sale of player announced on 2 January 2015.”

Rangers also confirmed they had received an approach from Sarver in the wake of reports detailing how the 53-year-old American businessman planned to launch an £18million bid.

Rangers said his approach “may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company”.

Their statement added: “There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which an offer may be made. A further announcement is expected shortly.”

The statement added that Sarver must make an offer or withdraw his bid by 5pm on February 2.

Sarver’s attempt was since made far more difficult by the recent deals which saw King and the Three Bears take their combined holding to almost 35 per cent, although they have stressed they are not working as a group.

The Three Bears have also offered £6.5million to underwrite a planned share issue.

Sarver would need to persuade 75 per cent of shareholders to back plans for a share issue to allow the board to offer him newly-created shares. A similar resolution was defeated at the club’s annual general meeting on December 22.

It is understood that Sarver has had tentative talks with the Three Bears but it appears unlikely that they and King would walk away after finally getting their hands on a significant tranche of shares in the ongoing power struggle at Ibrox.

Their recent share purchases have begun to shift the balance of power, along with the Scottish Football Association’s rejection of a plea from Mike Ashley to increase his shareholding to almost 30 per cent.

The Newcastle owner’s influence is limited to a 10 per cent stake under an agreement with the SFA and he and the club face disciplinary action from the governing body after the club installed his close associate, Derek Llambias, as director and chief executive.

Ashley, whose Sports Direct company control the club’s retail division, had strengthened his grip on Ibrox with loans totalling £3million late last year, but the fact that the latest loan came not from him but Easdale appears to show that his interest and influence is further on the wane.

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[…]

Cash-strapped Rangers need another loan

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Cash-strapped Rangers need another loan

Updated: Monday, 05 Jan 2015 11:06 | Comments

Comments The financial woes are continuing at the Ibrox club

The extent of Rangers’ immediate financial problems has been highlighted after they announced they needed a loan of up to £500,000 from shareholder Sandy Easdale to provide “working capital” in the coming days.

Rangers announced a new loan deal to the stock exchange as they confirmed that Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA basketball team, had made an approach that may or may not lead to an offer to buy the club.

Sarver’s interest had emerged on Sunday but his approach to the Rangers board came before almost a third of the club’s shares were snapped up by a combination of Dave King and the so-called Three Bears – George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park.

Easdale’s loan will be secured on income from the recent sale of Lewis Macleod, who signed for Brentford on Friday for an undisclosed fee that was reported as £1million.

Macleod has been the team’s most impressive performer this season and his displays earned the 20-year-old midfielder a place in the most recent Scotland squad, but his exit came as Rangers bid to recoup annual losses of £8.3million.

Rangers previously announced his sale had been necessary to provide funds for working capital and the urgent nature of those needs was laid bare in their most recent statement, which revealed that football club chairman Easdale’s interest-free loan of up to £500,000 would be used for “general working capital purposes over the next few days”.

The statement added: “Alexander Easdale will make available to the company up to £500,000 on a fee and interest free basis and it will be secured against the income from the sale of player announced on 2 January 2015.”

Rangers also confirmed they had received an approach from Sarver in the wake of reports detailing how the 53-year-old American businessman planned to launch an £18million bid.
Rangers said his approach “may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company”.

Their statement added: “There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which an offer may be made. A further announcement is expected shortly.”

The statement added that Sarver must make an offer or withdraw his bid by 5pm on 2 February.

Sarver’s attempt was since made far more difficult by the recent deals which saw King and the Three Bears take their combined holding to almost 35%, although they have stressed they are not working as a group.

The Three Bears have also offered £6.5m to underwrite a planned share issue.

Sarver would need to persuade 75% of shareholders to back plans for a share issue to allow the board to offer him newly-created shares.

A similar resolution was defeated at the club’s annual general meeting on 22 December.

It is understood that Sarver has had tentative talks with the Three Bears but it appears unlikely that they and King would walk away after finally getting their hands on a significant tranche of shares in the ongoing power struggle at Ibrox.

Their recent share purchases have begun to shift the balance of power, along with the Scottish Football Association’s rejection of a plea from Mike Ashley to increase his shareholding to almost 30%.

The Newcastle owner’s influence is limited to a 10% stake under an agreement with the SFA and he and the club face disciplinary action from the governing body after the club installed his close associate, Derek Llambias, as director and chief executive.

Ashley, whose Sports Direct company control the club’s retail division, had strengthened his grip on Ibrox with loans totalling £3m late last year, but the fact that the latest loan came not from him but Easdale appears to show that his interest and influence is further on the wane.

[…]

Price Cap introduced for the UK Payday Loans Market | tutor2u …

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans – the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.

Three main market failures are flagged up in the FCA analysis of the payday loans market:

  1. Behavioural biases – not least people’s desire for instant gratification which leads them to take out loans
  2. Information asymmetries – most lenders know more about the risk of default than the people they sell credit to
  3. Limited price competition between the major providers in the market

The cap

In January 2015, the FCA will introduce a cap (ceiling) on the total amount that high-cost short-term credit lenders can charge. According to the FCA announcement, a person taking out a typical loan over 30 days and repaying on time will not pay more than £24 per £100 borrowed. A £15 cap on default charges (paid by those who fail to repay their debt on time) will also be applied.

Payday loans market in the UK

In 2013 the UK payday loans market provided a total of over 10 million loans for 1.6 million people worth £2.5 billion. The average loan per consumer was £260. The FCA argues that found that excessive charges for high-cost short-term credit are harming significant numbers of consumers. Many borrowers pay a high price for a loan that is of limited net benefit, or makes their already difficult financial situation worse.

Likely exit of unprofitable lenders

Price capping for payday loans will reduce total revenue and overall profitability for lenders and there are forecasts that this intervention will cut the availability of loans for around 11% of individuals. However the FCA argues that “for most of these people, a payday loan or other form of high-cost short-term credit is not the best outcome for them due to the high cost, particularly if they are unable to pay back on time.”

Alternatives to payday loans

The FCA wants to see more people in financial difficult seek debt advice rather than approach payday lenders. In recent months there has also been increased interest in the potential of locally-run credit unions to supply alternative short term finance at lower interest rates than charged by the payday lenders.

The likelihood is that the payday loans price cap will bring about a sizeable reduction in the number of lenders in the market. The FCA report finds that only the largest lenders currently make significant profits – most are only marginally profitable, and some make no profit at all. The exit of many lenders from the market due to subnormal profits may impact on the degree of competition in the market.

Unintended consequences?

Critics of the price cap intervention argue that individuals denied credit will then seek inferior alternative means of borrowing, such as ‘bouncing’ cheques, exceeding authorised overdraft limits of borrowing from a pawnbroker (otherwise known as loan sharks).

The well established commercial banks such as Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland might decide to enter the market for short term loans and offer viable competition to the payday lenders.

Interventions in other countries

Price caps for short term high cost credit have been applied in a number of countries notably Canada and the United States. In the USA, 15 states eliminated payday lending by either introducing a ban or capping the maximum charge for credit at a low level, driving lenders out of business. 35 states in the US have introduced higher caps on the price of payday loans which protect consumers from high charges but keep the market viable.

Background on the UK payday loan market

(HCSTC: High cost short term credit)

Total payday loan revenue in 2012/13 was £1.1 billion, with 10.2 million loans issued, worth £2.8 billionThe average loan was £260 (£290 online and £180 on the high street)The three largest lenders, operating under five brand names, have a combined market share of 72% by revenueMost firms’ revenue is generated through interest chargesHCSTC users are younger than the UK population as a whole (33 versus 40 years)HCSTC users have lower income levels (the majority under £18,000 versus £26,500 per year)Around 65% of HCSTC users have no savings compared to 32% of the UK population; most of those who do save have less than £500 (compared to a median of £1,500-£3,000 for the UK population64% have outstanding debt from other types of lender, mainly credit cards (20%) and overdrafts (28%) and on household bills or mobiles (28%)Non-price competition in this market includes speed of access to funds and quality of access to information on loan costs provided to consumers

More reading

BBC – Payday loan firms not competitive, says CMA (June 2014) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27790924

Guardian: Articles on payday loans: http://www.theguardian.com/money/payday-loans

Channel 4 (November 2013): http://blogs.channel4.com/faisal-islam-on-economic…

[…]

Sixty victims of loan sharks in witness protection

Sixty victims of loan sharks are in witness protection, according to the country’s leading official tasked with breaking the cycle of fear, intimidation and violence trapping families who have borrowed money from illegal lenders.

Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in England, revealed that, across Britain, borrowers were paying at least £700m a year to predatory extortionists. The figure is equivalent to a third of the legal short-term payday loan market, which the Office of Fair Trading last year estimated to be worth £2.2bn.

Quigley, whose national enforcement team has powers of arrest and prosecution, said there was an increasing awareness of the help now available to bullied and traumatised victims. He said the true scale of the misery exerted by criminals who might have otherwise gone undetected for years was emerging now that more victims were coming forward.

Quigley said currently 60 cases had been given witness protection. Only the most extreme cases are considered for this protection.

The £700m figure was a conservative estimate for the illegal loans market, he added. “It really is hideous what some of the loan sharks do to a community. It is just exploitation and profiteering of the worst kind. We believe we have stopped 25 suicides, from what victims have told us.”

Quigley admitted the scale of lending and payment were difficult to quantify. “It is criminality. We know it is constant, “We know the impact it has, not just on those [borrowing], but it is all on the ghost economy, when no tax and no insurance are paid and it’s all cash.”

In many cases, there is no record of the transaction between a loan shark and a debtor. Lenders often punish borrowers, especially those who miss payments, with arbitrary increases on the amount owed.

Loan sharks often appear warm and friendly until repayments stop, and they are often heard about through friends, said Quigley. Some take passports, driving licences, even bank cards with a PIN to draw directly from borrowers’ accounts.

While there was no “specific DNA” to the criminals, they all lent money at extortionate rates.

Quigley said that while it was difficult to tell whether the illegal lending market was growing because of austerity, the readiness of victims to come forward, combined with better co-operation between authorities, were paying dividends.

He based his £700m figure on research from 2010 by the consultancy Policis for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It estimated there were 310,000 borrowers of illegal loans in the UK. An average of £350 a time was borrowed, and £700 paid back over 14 weeks at what lenders call “double bubble”, Quigley said. Most people borrowed a number of times.

“We are not only taking out small-time lenders who have a bad effect, but Mr Bigs as well. Once you remove a loan shark, the debt everyone owes is wiped out. That in itself boosts the local economy,” he said.

Those borrowing from loan sharks generally pay the lender first because they are frightened. “That has an impact on everything else. You see rent arrears increasing, properties becoming empty, people doing moonlight flits, petty crime going up.

“If you are handing over all the money to the loan shark and he is only giving you a little bit of money to live on and you have children to feed and the bills to pay, how do you make ends meet?”

In some cases, sharks “rented out” money, leaving their victims perpetually in debt and never paying off the capital sum. Quigley said that since debts were unenforceable in law, the only way lenders could ensure they were paid was through “fear, intimidation and acts of violence”.

Threats to borrowers’ partners and children often proved the tipping point for people calling the authorities, Quigley said. In one case, a man who had taken out a loan for £250 paid back £90,000 over 17 years before contacting Quigley’s team. The lender was jailed for eight months at Ipswich crown court.

The IMLTs in England, Scotland and Wales have brought more than 300 prosecutions since pilot schemes began in Birmingham and Glasgow in 2004 following decades of poor enforcement. Their work has helped about 23,000 victims of loan sharks and led to more than £42m worth of illegal debts being written off.

Last year, there were 100 arrests and 50 prosecutions, with the accused sometimes also facing charges such as benefit fraud, money-laundering, wounding, assault, blackmail and kidnapping.

Investigations are not confined to cities. They have included predominantly rural counties such as Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall.

In England, nearly all local authorities have now delegated their powers in this area to Birmingham city council, which hosts Quigley’s team.

A 60-strong staff include investigators, lawyers and victim support officers, who are funded through the National Trading Standards Board. All the teams run anonymous phonelines to encourage borrowers to report their persecutors. Quigley’s gets 50-60 a month.

Half the assets seized go to the Treasury and a third of the rest is used to cover court costs. But much of the remainder helps fund local community projects advertising the Stop Loan Sharks campaign and financial incentives for people to save and borrow from legal sources. Taxi and hire-car drivers are among those who have proved vulnerable to illegal lenders because of the costs of starting up.

“We are trying to change the next generation. I am not naive, but if we can stop one person using a loan shark, it will have been worth it because of the misery it brings with it,” said Quigley.

Sometimes the team cannot find sufficient evidence to prosecute; at other times it is not in the public interest, he said. “We may decide not to take a case because we would leave potential witnesses open to retribution, because only one person came forward. It is safety in numbers. We have to consider a whole host of risks and precautions.”

It is sometimes enough just to disrupt an illegal operation, he said. “We have had cases without victims where the evidence is so significant that we felt we could prove beyond all reasonable doubt what [illegal lenders] were doing.”

‘Don’t feed your kids – pay me’

Joseph Kiely made £3.6m from illegal loans to about 1,200 people in east Manchester. He was jailed for a total of five years in 2009 after being given concurrent and consecutive sentences – 21 months for blackmail, two years for acquiring criminal property, 15 months for converting criminal property, 12 months for illegal moneylending and three months for failing to provide information to the Office of Fair Trading.

Between May 2003 and December 2007, his illegal moneylending business had a turnover of almost £3m. He charged interest rates that would amount to between 433% and 2,437% APR. A hearing in 2010 confiscated assets amounting to £1.2m.

Paul Nicholson swindled millions of pounds from people in Cheshire and in 2009 was convicted of a number of charges including rape, blackmail, illegal moneylending and laundering. He was given at least six and a half years in prison. He made an estimated £2.7m in ill-gotten gains and in late 2010 he was ordered to surrender almost £1m of assets including capital from a sprawling mansion in Delamere, Cheshire, and his luxury villa in Spain, as well as £26,000 of cash found in his house, his Porsche, his horses, quad bikes and jewellery.

One victim killed himself after a loan of £300 soared to £3,000 in 12 weeks. Nicholson made one woman perform oral sex on him, threatened to petrol-bomb another’s house and told one distraught debtor: “Your priority is to pay me, not feed your kids.”

John Radford, once a licensed moneylender, was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison by Chester crown court for illegally lending last November last year. Two associates were jailed for 10 months.

Police found weapons including machetes, knuckledusters, and pepper spray when they searched Radford’s home in March 2012. More than £17,000 was found in safes. When they were arrested, the trio were due a return put at more than £420,000. Loan records suggested that in one six-week period they had about 130 customers owing them almost £100,000.

One victim paid back £60 a week for a year, meaning they had to pay back three times the initial loan. They then took out more loans to repay the first, eventually owing more than £13,000. Radford had 17 other properties, nine vehicles and more than £775,000 across five bank accounts, despite declaring less than £250,000 as income through employment and renting properties since 2003.

•This article was amended on 27 January 2014 to tidy up the final paragraph.

[…]

More debt clients have payday loans – Credit Today

The number of new clients with payday loans has doubled in two years, according to the Debt Advisory Centre.

The debt solutions provider has revealed that 37% of its new clients in 2013 owe money to payday lenders, a 106% rise since 2011, when 18% of its new clients were indebted to payday firms.

While the average number of payday loans held by each client has risen only slightly, from 2.7 in 2011 to 2.9 this year, the loans now account for a much greater percentage of the average client’s total debt.

In 2011, payday loans represented 7% of a client’s debt but that figure has climbed to 15% in 2013, the Debt Advisory Centre said.

It explained that while the average new client owes less in total, they owe more to payday lenders as the average new debt of a payday client has soared 17% in two years, from £1,380.64 to £1,615.05.

Melanie Taylor of the Debt Advisory Centre said: “The figures provide solid evidence of what many people already know – that payday loans are increasing in popularity at a remarkable rate.

“What is, perhaps, more surprising is that whilst the number of clients who run into problems with payday loans has doubled, we’ve seen little increase in the number of payday loans per client – or in the total value of those loans.”

The government announced this week that it plans to introduce a cap on the cost of payday loans when the Financial Conduct Authority takes over as regulator of the consumer credit market next year.

The figures from the Debt Advisory Centre are based on analysis of all UK clients starting any debt solution in the calendar year, including debt relief orders, IVAs, debt management plans and bankruptcy and, in Scotland, trust deeds, bankruptcy and the debt arrangement scheme.

[…]

Spotlight on payday loans misery

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People across Scotland are being urged to consider credit unions as an ethical and affordable alternative to payday loans. The ’12 Days of Debtmas’ campaign … […]

Loan offer for postgraduate living

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20 October 2013 Last updated at 11:26 ET

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Delicious Digg Facebook reddit StumbleUpon Email Print The funds will be available from the academic year 2015-2016

SNP conference 2013

Salmond: ‘Scotland’s time is now’ Report: SNP conference 2013 Corroboration ‘must go’ for justice Fishing sector ‘to gain’ post Yes

Postgraduate students will be able to get a loan of up to £4,500 to help towards living expenses, the Scottish education secretary has announced.

Mike Russell told the SNP conference that thousands of Scots students could apply for the assistance from 2015.

As many as 5,000 undergraduates, mainly taking courses in science, technology, engineering and maths, could benefit.

The low interest loans would only need repaid in line with the current student loan income threshold of £16,365.

Cash for student bursaries will rise next year to £105m, meeting a call from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland for this to increase in line with inflation.

‘Step forward’

In addition the minimum income students from poorer backgrounds get from loans and other financial support will also rise from £7,250 this year to £7,500 next year.

NUS Scotland president Gordon Maloney hailed the package as a “big step forward”.

Mr Russell told SNP delegates in Perth that money for education was the “best investment Scotland can make in its future”.

He said the student support package would get “even better”, adding: “I know that providing protection for inflation for further education students in the next academic year has been a key campaigning priority for the National Union of Students in Scotland.”

Conference rally

Mr Maloney welcomed the package, saying: “Too often, students in colleges and universities have to take on multiple part-time jobs, or go deep into commercial debt, to avoid dropping out.

“While, of course, grants and bursaries would be better than loans, worst of all would be no increases in support at all.”

Mr Russell’s announcement came as the SNP conference drew to a close. The event was followed by a rally in support of independence.

Chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign Blair Jenkins told the rally: “What unites us in the Yes campaign is that clear democratic principle that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands, that the best people to make decisions on what is right for our country are the people of Scotland themselves.”

[…]

Scottish News: Postgraduates to get cash help


Postgraduates to get cash help

Postgraduate students will be able to get cash help towards their living expenses from 2015, the Education Secretary has announced.

Mike Russell revealed thousands of Scottish students doing postgraduate courses at universities north of the border would be able to apply for a loan of up to £4,500.

As many as 5,000 students undertaking eligible courses – mainly in science, technology, engineering and maths – could benefit from the low interest loans, which they would then only have to repay once they were earning more than the student loan threshold, currently set at £16,365.

The help for postgraduate students was one of a package of measures of improved student support that Mr Russell unveiled at the SNP annual conference in Perth.

Cash for student bursaries will rise next year to £105 million, meeting a call from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland for this to increase in line with inflation.

In addition the minimum income students from poorer backgrounds get from loans and other financial support will also rise from £7,250 this year to £7,500 next year.

NUS Scotland president Gordon Maloney hailed the package as a “big step forward”.

Mr Russell told SNP activists at the conference that money for education was the “best investment Scotland can make in its future”.

He said the student support package would get “even better”, adding: “I know that providing protection for inflation for further education students in the next academic year has been a key campaigning priority for the National Union of Students in Scotland.

“So today I am announcing a rise in the total bursaries package for colleges to £105 million, fully meeting this.

“For higher education students we have already scrapped tuition fees and introduced a minimum income of £7,250 – but that can get better and I can also announce today an increase in the minimum income next year to £7,500.”

He added there was “still more we can do” as he went on to announce the loan help for postgraduate students.

Mr Russell said: “From session 2015-16 Scottish domiciled postgraduate students will be able to apply to the Students Awards Agency for a loan contribution towards not just their tuition fees but up to £4,500 in living expenses. That is a big step forward.”

Mr Maloney welcomed the package, saying: “The announcements today are very good news for students in Scotland. We have asked for increased support for college, university and postgraduate students and this announcement is a big step forward.

“Students need enough money to get by to be able to concentrate on their studies. Too often, students in colleges and universities have to take on multiple part-time jobs, or go deep into commercial debt, to avoid dropping out. While, of course, grants and bursaries would be better than loans, worst of all would be no increases in support at all.

“The increase in postgraduate support is particularly welcome news, given that at the moment postgraduate students have to self-fund their way through their studies, or borrow commercial bank loans. Hopefully opening up access to living cost loans will open up new opportunities to people from poorer backgrounds towards gaining postgraduate qualifications that employers increasingly demand.”

He added: “These announcements are a great step forward but there is still more work to do to get student support up to where it needs to be. We will continue to press the Scottish Government to increase student support even further, including through grants and bursaries, between now and the budget being finalised early next year. This announcement will see more money in students’ pockets, and will help students from all backgrounds focus on their future rather than their finances.”

[…]

Postgraduates to get cash help


Postgraduates to get cash help

Postgraduate students will be able to get cash help towards their living expenses from 2015, the Education Secretary has announced.

Mike Russell revealed thousands of Scottish students doing postgraduate courses at universities north of the border would be able to apply for a loan of up to £4,500.

As many as 5,000 students undertaking eligible courses – mainly in science, technology, engineering and maths – could benefit from the low interest loans, which they would then only have to repay once they were earning more than the student loan threshold, currently set at £16,365.

The help for postgraduate students was one of a package of measures of improved student support that Mr Russell unveiled at the SNP annual conference in Perth.

Cash for student bursaries will rise next year to £105 million, meeting a call from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland for this to increase in line with inflation.

In addition the minimum income students from poorer backgrounds get from loans and other financial support will also rise from £7,250 this year to £7,500 next year.

NUS Scotland president Gordon Maloney hailed the package as a “big step forward”.

Mr Russell told SNP activists at the conference that money for education was the “best investment Scotland can make in its future”.

He said the student support package would get “even better”, adding: “I know that providing protection for inflation for further education students in the next academic year has been a key campaigning priority for the National Union of Students in Scotland.

“So today I am announcing a rise in the total bursaries package for colleges to £105 million, fully meeting this.

“For higher education students we have already scrapped tuition fees and introduced a minimum income of £7,250 – but that can get better and I can also announce today an increase in the minimum income next year to £7,500.”

He added there was “still more we can do” as he went on to announce the loan help for postgraduate students.

Mr Russell said: “From session 2015-16 Scottish domiciled postgraduate students will be able to apply to the Students Awards Agency for a loan contribution towards not just their tuition fees but up to £4,500 in living expenses. That is a big step forward.”

Mr Maloney welcomed the package, saying: “The announcements today are very good news for students in Scotland. We have asked for increased support for college, university and postgraduate students and this announcement is a big step forward.

“Students need enough money to get by to be able to concentrate on their studies. Too often, students in colleges and universities have to take on multiple part-time jobs, or go deep into commercial debt, to avoid dropping out. While, of course, grants and bursaries would be better than loans, worst of all would be no increases in support at all.

“The increase in postgraduate support is particularly welcome news, given that at the moment postgraduate students have to self-fund their way through their studies, or borrow commercial bank loans. Hopefully opening up access to living cost loans will open up new opportunities to people from poorer backgrounds towards gaining postgraduate qualifications that employers increasingly demand.”

He added: “These announcements are a great step forward but there is still more work to do to get student support up to where it needs to be. We will continue to press the Scottish Government to increase student support even further, including through grants and bursaries, between now and the budget being finalised early next year. This announcement will see more money in students’ pockets, and will help students from all backgrounds focus on their future rather than their finances.”

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