Stornoway-based HiScot Credit Union has put the last piece in its map of the Highlands and Islands, completing all arrangements for a merger with Shetland Credit Union.

HiScot received Highlands and Islands Enterprise support of £82,500 towards the costs of the merger, which will be formalised later this year with a launch event in Shetland.

It means HiScot now covers a geographical area one-and-a-half times the size of Belgium, a population of one-third of a million people and four local authority areas – something which director David Mackay says makes the saving and borrowing organisation even more robust and stable.

David told today (Wednesday August 1st): “With a Credit Union scale is good. Expansion into Shetland grows the business by 10% and gives us the opportunity to work with Shetland Council, the fourth local authority in the area we set out to cover.

“In the Western Isles, we have an excellent relationship with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and 10% of the council’s employees are signed up to payroll deductions – either saving money, repaying loans or both. Highland and Orkney councils are just as supportive and we can now develop the same positive relationship with Shetland.”

HiScot started in Stornoway in 2006 as Western Isles Credit Union, but expanded in 2011 to cover the Highlands and Islands. At that time the company agreed not to work in Shetland as there was an existing Shetland Islands Credit Union, but two years ago the Shetland Company approached HiScot seeking a merger.

David said: “We have now got to the point where we are technically merged and we will be recruiting in the next few weeks for another employee to support that business. Our only office is in Stornoway and from here we operate 24/7 online banking and telephone banking five days a week.”

The merger creates a new opportunity to raise the profile of HiScot, and of Credit Unions in general, as a robust business and a good place to invest.

David said: “There’s a constant challenge for credit unions upgrading public perception so that people see us as a good option for both saving and borrowing. Our loan and saving rates are good and all our directors are volunteers – there are no fat-cat shareholders. They are people who are there for the best interests of the members, now all over the Highlands and Islands.”