MPs call for legislation to stem tide of bank closures in Scotland

A group of MPs have called for new legislation to stop banks abandoning Scottish towns.

MPs call for legislation to stem tide of bank closures in Scotland

A report published by the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee calls on the UK government to obtain a commitment from banks that they will not close “the last branch in town”.

The MPs said that in the event they refuse, new laws should force them to stay.

Scotland has lost about a third, 610, of its bank branches in the past eight years, proportionally more than anywhere else in the UK, MPs say.

The politicians also suggest that bank branch closures should be subject to public consultation, with the impact of such a move on vulnerable groups being considered.

The loss of ATMs is also detailed in the report, which suggests that a strategy should be put in place by the government on access to cash.

Committee chairman, Pete Wishart MP, said: “It is disgraceful that banks think they can abandon Scottish towns with no access to essential financial services.

“Last year, my committee demanded that RBS halt their march of bank branch closures, but since then the picture seems to have just deteriorated further. In 2018 in Scotland, 355 ATMs were shut down, and bank branches continue to close at an alarming rate.

“Scottish communities are becoming ‘cash free’ against their will and it is time the government stepped in to intervene.

“My committee is calling on the government to stop banks from closing the last remaining bank branch in town.

“It is essential that towns are left with at least one bank, so if the banks won’t make this commitment themselves, the government should consider legislating.”

Andrew McRae, from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Losing a local bank branch makes it more difficult to run a business in an area, as well as leaving another ugly gap on a high street.

“MPs are right to underline the impact of the withdrawal of the banks on people and businesses. Swift action is now needed from policymakers to defend our remaining local financial infrastructure; to bring empty premises back to use; and to oversee the deployment of alternative facilities for left-behind places.”

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