An affluent area of East Renfrewshire, the council area that already has a reputation for being largely well-to-do, has shown a surprising spike in recent figures released illustrating debt and arrears across the West of Scotland.
Statistics drawn up by debt advisory charity StepChange suggest that, behind the twitching net curtains of East Ren suburbia, residents are having to fall back on fur coats and slippers to keep warm with Eastwood households in particular falling behind in rent and mortgage payments and struggling to pay their heating bills.
A spokesman for the charity said figures, accurate to June 2014, show the average debt levels in Southside to be slightly below the Scottish average but, he added: “Our Eastwood clients actually have the highest average debt in Scotland – by a considerable margin. To put it into context, the next nearest is the Shetland Islands, at £22,768.00. For comparison sake, the lowest in Scotland is Greenock and Inverclyde at £6,210.74.”
Glasgow Pollok average household debt was £12,940.54, higher than the whole of Glasgow Southside (£11,200) with Eastwood towering above them carrying average debts of £30,172.
While acknowledging the high numbers of Eastwood debt, these figures may however be contextualised as running in parallel with other social demographic averages in terms of lifestyle.
It can be argued, say some experts, that someone living in a one bed rental and driving a secondhand family saloon feels the same pain as someone in Eastwood whose business went down with the banking crash and is left with a £45,000 car to pay off, and a remortgaged mansion with high ceilings and drafty sashwindowed rooms to heat.
StepChange say that the source of debt can be similar, adding: “Our research tells us that about the majority of our clients are in work and we are keen to break down the stereotype that debt is something that only people on low income suffer from. An income shock can be all that is needed to turn someone across into debt. Everyone is vulnerable regardless of your financial situation. We recently helped two high earners recently who between them had accrued £36,000 of payday loan debt, while another client came to us for help with a debt of £340.
“Whether someone has a debt of £1,000 or £30,000, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there are free debt advice organisations out there who can help you. Seeking debt advice is not only a means of getting your finances under control, but could help address one of the underlying causes of stress and anxiety.”