Gordon MacDonald: Don’t bank on finding a branch open
Last month, it was revealed by Which? that more than a third of Scottish bank branches have closed their doors to customers in the last eight years.
The trials and tribulations of RBS – who have closed more banks in Edinburgh than any other bank – have been well-documented, and Santander recently made public their plans to plans to pull the shutters down on a further 15 bank branches across Scotland.
In April, TSB also announced that dozens of their branches will be open for fewer hours during the week.
Over recent years, Bank of Scotland, TSB and Clydesdale have all closed down branches in my constituency, and RBS have closed all of their branches: Fairmilehead, Colinton, Balerno, Heriot-Watt University and the Juniper Green.
These figures are staggering, but the thing I was most concerned to hear about is that Edinburgh has been the area most affected by branch closures in Scotland.
A total of 42 local branches have closed across Edinburgh in just five years – that’s a huge blow to our communities, businesses, and tourism.
Bank closures are not just an inconvenience. Every one of these branches is hugely important to the community it serves; local families, small business owners, and tourists will all be affected by closures.
Although more and more of us do our banking on the internet or by phone, that simply isn’t an option for everyone. For vulnerable consumers, such as disabled people, elderly people, and those who may have difficulties travelling, the decrease in local branch access can present significant challenges.
Many people also prefer having a face-to-face conversation about their finances with a real person, and closing banks left, right, and centre could leave these people wondering how they will cope.
The national charity for older people, Age Scotland, has been campaigning for more innovative methods to deal with the increasing bank closures affecting communities and older people across the country – a campaign which I wholeheartedly support. Banks must start engaging with their older clients rather than isolating them. It would be a huge loss to Edinburgh if any more branches were to shut their doors – this could leave a significant number of elderly and vulnerable people without the preferred or necessary level of face-to-face service.
I was also surprised to hear that cashpoint closures have also risen, with 290 ATMs shutting in Scotland in the last year alone. Of these closures, more than 200 were free-to-use cash machines.
I will continue fighting tooth and nail for urgent action to ensure our communities have full access to adequate banking facilities.
Gordon MacDonald is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands.