Sometimes in life, you think you’ve seen it all and nothing can surprise you. You’d be wrong of course as something always comes along to shock you. 

The Scottish Government’s Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill sounds innocuous and geeky. One of those “let’s bring the law up to date” to benefit everyone things. 

The reality is quite different. What the bill seeks to do is quite profound and extremely prejudicial to the rights and financial wellbeing of Scottish consumers.

The bill would expand the scope for individuals to virtually pawn their personal possessions worth £1000 or more – home computers, large screen smart TVs and motor vehicles – as a new form of security over debt. 

Worse, it would create a new form of warrant sales in Scotland.

At present in order to raise money on moveable goods you generally have to deliver those goods to a creditor. 

This is known as a pledge. It’s not necessary if you are a company or partnership as you can grant a “floating charge” over moveable assets – for example, a business can raise funds over its machinery or fleet of vehicles. 

For consumers the pledge is known as the pawn. You take an expensive watch to the pawn shop and raise a sum of money, get a ticket and a chance to buy it back at a higher price. 

If not, the watch will be sold by the pawn broker. 

The Scottish Government thinks that in a modern age the need to hand over goods is “out of keeping with commercial realities”. 

That may well be true for business-to-business lending, but why expand the concept of pawn broking for ordinary householders, 
particularly in a cost-of-living emergency?

The Moveable Transactions Bill would create a new Register of Statutory Pledges applicable to businesses and individual consumers. Security over your personal possessions could be granted quickly and easily by online registration in the new register. 

I have a number of concerns with this proposal, not least the fact it gives creditors a new right to secure lending against a person’s moveable goods at a time when many people are financially vulnerable. 

If you rent your home, have modest earnings but own a car or expensive computer gaming equipment, a creditor may well be inclined to require any loan to include a statutory pledge against those moveable goods. 

In other words, those with no assets except household goods or motor cars will now become the perfect subject for statutory pledges.

I find this horrifying because I know what this will create. The re-introduction of a new form of warrant sales in Scotland. 

More than 20 years ago, the Scottish Parliament passed a private members’ bill to rid us of the scourge of poindings and warrant sales. 

These were used mostly for council tax debt where someone came into your home and listed your moveable goods as security for the debt. It was an offence to move the goods and unless you paid your debt these were sold by warrant sale – a public auction. 

I remember back in 1999, there were 23,000 poindings in Scotland and 415 warrant sales.

My recollection is robust as I assisted in the drafting of the Abolition and Poindings and Warrant Sales Act 2001 for the then MSPs Tommy Sheridan, Alex Neil and John McAllion. 

I also advised many people across the city who were threatened with warrant sales. 

It was a terrifying and humiliating experience having sheriff officers coming into your home to tell you that your possessions were going to be sold at a public auction because you were in debt.

Section 63 of the Moveable Transactions Bill entitles a creditor to serve a pledge enforcement notice on a debtor where payment has not been made. 

Section 65 of the bill enables an authorised person – a sheriff officer – to enter someone’s home to remove moveable goods subject to the statutory pledge. 

Section 66 of the bill gives a creditor the right to sell someone’s moveable goods at a public auction. 

Why on earth are we creating new warrant sales in Scotland in 2022? 

Why are we rapidly expanding the scope of pawn broking and giving creditors the right to use it against those who will suffer extreme prejudice? 

Last week I had written about how the Scottish Parliament could easily introduce a Cost-of-Living Crisis Bill to help those on low incomes manage exorbitant energy bills and the double-digit rate of inflation. 

The Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill does nothing to help with the cost-of-living emergency. 

It pours petrol on the flames of that emergency and reveals how out of touch those who have introduced this bill really are.