Warnings over impact of more local bank closures

Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee on the banks plans to close more than 50 branches in Scotland.
Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee on the banks plans to close more than 50 branches in Scotland.
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Charity chiefs, pensioners’ groups and local community bodies and tourism leaders have warned of the crippling grass roots impact of bank closures around Scotland, including those in the Lothians.

MSPs have been told that many people face a “nightmare” getting cash and access to banking services which are often miles from their home, as well as stark claims that it will now become difficult to run a business in many parts of Scotland.

And the country’s tourism industry, which supports thousand of jobs and accounts for hundreds of millions of pounds in spending, could also be hit as tourists struggle to access cash in some areas, according to a series of stark submissions to Holyrood’s economy committee.

It comes after the House of Commons Scottish affairs committee called on RBS to halt plans to axe up to 62 branches across Scotland, warning this will be “devastating” for communities. Bank of Scotland has also earmarked 49 branches for the chop this year.

MSPs will hear from local community groups affected this week who are warning that the closures will rip the heart out of local communities.

Margaret G Rae, from Whitburn, said: “The RBS branch in Whitburn was the biggest in the district. It was always busy, however whenever I wrote to RBS I was told I was wrong.

“I do not recall RBS conducting a survey so I took it upon myself to monitor the customers in the bank every time I made a visit.

“There was never less than 10 people waiting to be seen, worst times there could be 20+ people queuing to be seen.

“When Armadale two-and-a-half miles distant, Harthill two miles and Fauldhouse three miles, also, Blackburn three miles all closed, Whitburn branch served all these communities.

“The last time we visited Bathgate RBS there was a queue out the door, every automated machine was in use. It was a nightmare. But who cares? Not RBS.”

Elderly Scots, who can struggle with technology and the online banking alternatives suggested by RBS, are among those worst affected with the disappearance of the High Street bank also having a devastating impact on social isolation.

Age Scotland said: “We are told by older people that dealing with a call centre for enquiries which they used to undertake in branch can be unnecessarily 
stressful due to the quality of the sound, remembering 
complicated passwords and security answers, having to 
verbally articulate what their issue is and the fear of phone scams,”

Going to the bank is part of a routine for many older Scots that “gets them out of the house” and there are fears the closures could undermine efforts to tackle the “devastating impact” of loneliness and social isolation”.