Communities across Scotland, particular in our rural areas, are rightly concerned about the impact the decision by RBS to close branches, including in some cases the last branch in the community, will have on local businesses, employees, the elderly and vulnerable and all those who need access to banking services.
I know that more and more of us do our banking on the internet or by phone but that simply isn’t an option for everyone. RBS and the banking industry need to think again.
Many older or vulnerable members of our communities rely on branches to conduct their banking, and while banks have a duty to support people to transfer to mobile or online banking, for many that simply won’t be something they feel safe or comfortable doing.
Equally mobile and online banking doesn’t solve the problems of businesses, many of whom in rural communities will still take cash and who without local branches will now have to take significant time out of their working day to travel to the remaining branches to deposit their takings or to speak to someone if they need face to face for business advice.
Since the decision by RBS was announced the Scottish Government has stood side by side with the communities and employees affected. We have called on the UK Government as the government responsible for banking, and as part owners of RBS, to step up to the plate. We have asked them to establish and enforce a guaranteed minimum level of service provision for essential banking services, recognising the importance of continued access to banking for towns and communities across Scotland.
It was deeply disappointing this week to hear the Prime Minister continue to brush off my Westminster colleagues requests for the government to step in with party political attacks when she should have been standing up for the public interest.
The Scottish Government will continue to do everything it can to support affected staff and to identify solutions that will preserve access to essential banking services for customers and communities throughout the country but ultimately it is only the UK government that can act to stop these branch closures and that’s why campaigns like the Press and Journal’s campaign to Save our Banks are essential to add to the pressure and to force RBS and the UK government to provide a better service to rural Scotland.
This article originally appeared in the Press and Journal.