"This announcement by the Bank of Scotland brings the total number of proposed bank branch closures throughout my constituency of Dumfries and Galloway since the beginning of the year, to eight.
"That’s eight individual communities damaged through losing an important service facility. Eight teams of experienced bank staff facing redundancy. Many of these staff members will have dedicated their working lives to the bank and it is vital that everything that can be done to support them is being done. I will be writing to the bank to object to these closure and suggest they have been premature in closing them. I have also asked what steps they are taking to mitigate the harm these closures will have on their staff, if they do indeed go ahead.
"Taken separately, each branch closure has a devastating effect on each rural town centre but when you look at this issue as a region wide event the impact becomes even more serious.
"Dumfries and Galloway is a vast region with an ageing population. It is simply not reasonable to expect elderly and vulnerable people to travel miles to access banking services. These closures will see Bank of Scotland customers in Port William being expected to travel over 16 miles to their nearest branch in Newton Stewart, for customers in Dalry it is just as bad as they will now have to travel 15 miles to Castle Douglas. It is quite simply, unacceptable.
"Banks are telling us that online mobile transactions have increased ten fold whilst branch transactions had fallen by 20%. Whilst that it is a substantial drop, it is not significant enough to close the branch. Banks should be re-looking at the way the do things to make their branches more viable – they shouldn’t simply be closing them without exploring other options.
"I have written to all three banks and demanded a meeting with them all at the table - the Clydesdale, RBS and The Bank of Scotland talk about ‘legacy’ programs to help lessen the impact of the branch closures. I propose that instead of each bank doing their own small thing, they put all the legacy money together and work with each other to make a substantive difference to the communities that are losing their branch. These legacies should be meaningful and could be a mix of mobile banks to reach elderly and rural customers - and of course better mobile signals so others can move to online banking. It is ironic that rural branches are closed in areas with poor internet because of a rise in online transactions.
"It’s simply not good enough for the banks to shut up shop and leave their customers to sort out access to online services themselves. Banks have a duty and a responsibility to the communities they are leaving to make sure that online access is possible."