Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant held a Scottish Parliament debate on the loss of banking services across rural Scotland.
This week the MSP debated, in the Scottish Parliament Chamber, the proposed Bank of Scotland axe of mobile banking branches across 50 locations in Scotland including many in the Highlands and Islands.
Mrs Grant explained that since 2015, Scotland has seen a 60% decline in banking branches.
With many areas in the Highlands and Islands having an even higher loss.
For example, Caithness and Sutherland has seen a 72% decline, Moray a 66% decline and Ross, Skye and Lochaber a 65% decline.
She also outlined the alternatives offered are not sustainable nor accessible.
On-line banking is not viable for some customers due to broadband connectivity or digital literacy and Post offices do provide services but they are not available to all and are liable to closure.
She then went onto state that the mobile banks are not convenient but that those residents that use them are the very people who cannot travel great distances to access banking services.
Thus, this proposed axe of service abandons them with little to no alternative.
Mrs Grant finished by stating these banks were bailed out by the public purse in the 2008 financial crash and she urged Bank of Scotland the Lloyds Banking Group to reconsider their plan and to rethink their strategies to better serve their customers – especially those in rural areas.
Every party that contributed (Scottish Labour, SNP, Conservative and Liberal Democrats) agreed with Mrs Grant and there was consensus that the Bank Of Scotland are wrong to remove services from rural high streets.
Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy outlined that this was an important motion and he congratulated all members for their valuable contributions.
He stressed that banks have a social responsibility to communities and shared suspicions as to what assessments have been done on the impacts these closures will have.
He concluded that he was going to host a cross-party roundtable on this issue with the Scottish Financial Enterprise, Lloyds Banking Group and the Financial Conduct Authority to attend to discuss this further and that other MSPs will be invited to attend.
Speaking after the debate Rhoda Grant MSP said:
“I thank MSPs for contributing to this important debate and the consensus was not only moving but I hope its influential to the banks in rethinking this reckless abandonment of communities.
“Times are changing and the way we access our banking is changing however, its vital that protections are in place to ensure that people can always access cash and access services in person.
“This axe will disproportionately affect the elderly, disabled and digitally excluded.
“I urge Bank of Scotland to rethink their decision and to re-evaluate how they are serving their customers”.