MSP CALLS FOR ACTION TO HALT BANK CLOSURES

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for action to halt bank closures- before local bank branches disappear for good out with only the region’s largest towns and cities.

The local MSP was speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (18th September) on the impact of bank closures in which he supported calls for the Scottish Government to host a summit involving high street banks to investigate the setting up of shared bank hubs in communities, called for the UK Government to introduce mandatory consultations on bank branch closures and urged for the Scottish Government to provide more support for the development of credit unions and for the regeneration of town centres, hit by bank and shop closures.

Speaking during the debate Colin Smyth highlighted bank closures in Dumfries and Galloway and said “The town of Dalbeattie has a population of over 4,000. A decade ago the town was served by three banks. The first to be axed was the Clydesdale Bank in 2007. This was followed by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2014. Last year the Bank of Scotland closed its doors for the last time in the town leaving Dalbeattie with no bank and it’s not alone. From Whithorn in the west of the region to Lochmaben in the east, the local bank branch has become a distant memory. We’re told by the banks that alternatives are in place- such as mobile banking. But in the case of Dalbeattie which I have highlighted, that consists of one bank, a couple of hours per week.  We are also told that the Post Office is an alternative and certainly for simple bank transactions that can be true. But for many towns and villages that option no longer exists- with Post Office closures continuing in many communities. So online banking can often be the only alternative for communities but as Age Scotland highlight- 67% of people over the age of 75 in Scotland do not use the internet”.

The local MSP added, “We need mandatory consultation on bank branch closures before, not after they close. If banks won’t do that properly, then we need legislation from the UK to ensure they do- and that’s what a future Labour Government will deliver.

The Scottish Government can also do more, for example redoubling efforts to grow credit unions in our communities to make them a viable alternative and delivering far more support for regenerating our increasingly neglected town centres to increase footfall.

Unless action is taken, it is only a matter of time before local bank branches disappear for good out with only our very largest towns and cities-  and that cannot allowed to happen”.