The Credit Union Movement

Credit unions have always been part of a large international movement.

There are more than 40,000 credit unions in 79 countries around the world, enabling nearly 120 million people to access affordable financial services.

Credit unions operating in Britain today are extremely varied in size, membership and the range of services they offer, but they all share a basic philosophy and set of principles with the worldwide credit union movement.

The ideas and values central to how credit unions work were developed in the 19th century, by pioneers such as Robert Owen in Britain. The movement grew quickly throughout America and Canada and soon began to have an influence across the rest of the world, notably in Jamaica during the 1940's, and in Ireland during the late 1950's.

Credit unions took longer to take off in England, Scotland and Wales, and there was no legal structure for credit unions in the UK until 1979. People who had seen the idea work in Ireland, the Caribbean, and North America were amongst the first British credit union pioneers.

There are now around 1.4million credit union members in the UK, including more than quarter of a million in Scotland.