Banks have failed to engage with the community over branch closures, according to a Holyrood committee 

03.07.2018

An inquiry into bank closures in Scotland was launched by the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee in March 2018, as a response to the closing of more than a third of Scotland’s bank branches since 2010.

The Committee found that these closures have caused concern in communities, particularly to the vulnerable, where alternative options to face-to-face banking have not been adequate. The report also found that banks failed to consult with businesses and communities before closing branches across Scotland.

The Committee took evidence from an extensive range of community representatives, organisations like Credit Unions and Community Councils, and the banks themselves, to examine the impact of closures on businesses and consumers, and to hold banks to account. It also reflected evidence heard from people in towns which have suffered from the loss of a last bank, and with buildings still standing empty.

Gordon Lindhurst MSP, Convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, said:

“There has been significant public concern about the extent of Scottish bank branch closures. After hearing from a wide range of people during the course of the committee inquiry, we are in no doubt that the loss of branches has had a negative impact on communities and businesses across Scotland.

  • “People told us that they feel abandoned by the banks following branch closures with alternatives offered by the banks often not meeting their needs. It is vital that people have access to cash and face-to-face banking services. The Committee believes that banks must engage with people and businesses on their needs before deciding to close a branch. The UK Government should urgently carry out a full study into the effects on communities.”

    Some of the recommendations set down by the committee include:
  • Asking the Scottish Government to call a summit with the banks to discuss solutions to the issues arising from bank closures.
  • Urging the banks to engage with local communities on the use of empty bank buildings on our high streets.
  • Asking the UK Government to carry out a study into current and future provision of banking services to ensure universal banking provision
  • Replacing the Access to Banking Standard with a statutory model which includes the requirement to consult before a decision is made to close a branch.
  • Putting on hold or cancelling future RBS bank closures, to allow for a full and proper study on the impact of closures across Scotland.

Background

The number of bank branches across Scotland reduced by a third between 2010 and 2017, according to the Business Register and Employment Survey.
Barry McCulloch of FSB Scotland told us that in 2013, more than 1,100 bank branches were operating in Scotland, with that figure set to drop to fewer than 800 by the end of this year. Which? reports that in Scotland, 368 branches were shut since 2015, or are scheduled to close by the end of 2018.

  2010  Current  Change  % change 
Bank of Scotland   293 206  - 87   - 30%
 RBS  334  99  - 235  -  70%
 Clydesdale Bank  150  71  - 79  - 53%
 TSB  189  155  - 34  - 18%
 Santander  104  60  - 44  - 42%

The full report can be read online here.

For further information, visit the committee's inquiry page.

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