Inquiry into loss of banks and ATMs

The Royal Bank in Coldstream is to close.
The Royal Bank in Coldstream is to close.

Widespread closure of bank branches and free ATMs across Scotland, a move that has left only two branches in Berwickshire, is the subject of a Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry.

A report by Which? revealed that a third of bank and building society branches in Scotland had closed in eight years and this week the Scottish Affairs Committee has been hearing from Which?, Citizens Advice, Scottish Rural Action and a member of the Access to Cash Review on the impact these closures are having on communities and businesses across Scotland.

The committee asked whether alternative banking and cash withdrawal facilities, such as the Post Office, are adequate to fill the gap created by closure of banking facilities.

Community councils in the Borders were contacted by the Scottish Affairs Committee for their views on how bank branch closures have impacted their communities but by the time the information was shared, some of the community councils contacted had less than 10 days to respond.

The Which? report highlighted that the loss of local bank branches has been compounded by a sharp rise in the rate of cashpoint closures, which saw 290 ATMs close in Scotland. The majority of these machines (204) were free-to-use cashpoints that give people access to their cash without having to pay a hefty fee for each withdrawal.

Concerned by the double blow of cashpoint and bank closures across Scotland, Which? is calling on the UK Government to give a single regulator a duty to protect access to cash and ensure no-one is left behind by these rapid changes to the payments landscape.

A call echoed by Age Scotland who say that the closures have had a disproportionate impact on older people living in Scotland - 500,000 people over the age of 60 do not have access to the internet and go without easy access to their finances. The charity wants a regulator to protect access to cash to ensure that people and communities aren’t left behind as the banking industry moves to digital by default and it also backs the idea of shared banking hubs to serve communities without any banks.

Following the Scottish Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Borders MP, John Lamont tweeted: “Today I raised concerns of residents in the #ScottishBorders about access to cash & banking with @WhichUK @CitAdviceScot & @ScotRuralAction

“Clear that in rural areas the loss of cash machines & bank branches are a big blow + alternatives not good enough.”