SNP MSP Christine Grahame has called for the UK government to step in to save banking services in Midlothian ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate highlighting the negative impact of branch closures on communities across Scotland.
The debate follows a damning report by Holyrood’s Economy Committee which investigated the impact of local bank closures across Scotland.
The report found that the worst impact of bank closures will be felt by the most vulnerable members of our society, for whom going into a branch may be the only feasible way to conduct their banking; bank closures across Scotland have had a “negative impact” on people and businesses across Scotland, with communities experiencing a reduction in footfall for businesses and tourism on their high streets; banks’ claims that the closures were driven by demand are not backed by evidence, considering customers were not consulted.
Figures show that the number of bank branches reduced by a third across Scotland between 2010 and 2017, and Ms Grahame said that while the UK Government is responsible for the regulation of banking services and owns a controlling stake in RBS, it has failed to use its influence to represent Scottish communities and reverse these closures.
She continued said: “Many people are still dependent on high street services, this is a lifeline service for some. The claim that customers are opting for on-line banking is in part a consequence of closures – this option is not practicable for businesses lodging cash takings or in particular some elderly or vulnerable people who are not too content with on-line. I myself would rather use face to face services.
“The claim that Post Offices are a viable alternative is simply ill thought out - often post offices are in busy shops with limited privacy and, as talented as the post office staff are, I do not believe they would have the same expertise as the local banking staff who have been and are being made redundant.
“These swingeing cuts by the banks further highlight the need for the Tory government to start acting to ensure the industry is properly regulated and customers and businesses are properly catered for.”