MORE than 400 Scots a week will become insolvent this year as the economy fails to show signs of recovery from the downturn, a leading accountancy firm has warned.
PKF has estimated that more than 20,000 people will have been sequestrated – the Scottish legal term for personal bankruptcy – or will have taken out a Protected Trust Deed (PTD) at the end of 2011.
The figure is likely to be even higher by the end of this year, with many of those taking out PTDs, which are used as a way of paying debts, from among the middle-classes, it added.
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Bryan Jackson, PKF's corporate recovery partner, said: "There was a widespread assumption in 2011 the economy would start to show signs of recovery and that personal insolvencies would stabilise, albeit at an extremely high level.
"However, the fluctuations in the economy, the difficulties in the eurozone and the clear impact of public sector cuts is increasing the number of Scots facing financial difficulties."
He added: "The dramatic rise in the number of more affluent Scots being made bankrupt is a further sign the after-effects of the recession are spreading among all sectors of society, with the result that I believe all personal insolvencies will continue to rise and remain at high levels for years to come."
PTDs can be taken out by people as a way of paying their debts. They work by transferring assets to a trustee, who then pays creditors.
Mr Jackson added: "Those individuals taking out a PTD tend to be more affluent with an income and assets. Prior to the recession, if they got into financial difficulty the rising value of their property came to the rescue and they would remortgage.
"Now, with house prices remaining stubbornly static and a general reluctance by lenders to increase their exposure to risk, homeowners with high debts are extremely vulnerable."
John Hall, Scottish council member with insolvency trade body R3, said the third quarter of 2011 saw the number of PTDs reach its second-highest on record. He said: "The housing market is not likely to improve in the coming year to rescue heavily indebted individuals."
Susan McPhee, head of policy for Citizens Advice Scotland, said the insolvency figures are "not unrealistic" and changes which made it easier to take the bankruptcy route had contributed to the rise.
She added: "Nobody wants to be declared insolvent. It is not a soft option. It is a stressful and difficult process emotionally, and it can significantly restrict your financial options later in life.
"It is not a step we would ever advise anyone to take lightly.
"However, if your debts have become unmanageable, and you really can't see a way out, then bankruptcy can be your only realistic course."
PKF also said 25 firms will go into receivership every week over the course of the next year, possibly taking the total higher than last year's 1300 failures. Smaller firms will bear the brunt of the gloom with larger businesses less likely to be affected, it warned.
PKF based its forecast on insolvency statistics in the third quarter of last year which rose by 5.2% to 361 compared with the previous three months. They rose by 46.2% compared with the same quarter of 2010, resulting in the largest ever figure for a single quarter.
It pointed out that, as the second quarter of 2011 saw the previous highest ever quarterly figure, it is highly likely the 1300 figure will be breached later this month when fourth quarter figures are published.