South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has criticised the UK Government for failing to do enough to protect communities against bank and cash machines closures, after research by consumer watchdog Which? warned that rapid changes that many Scots are at particular risk of having no access to cash.




Research by Which? found 339 Scottish bank branches had closed their doors since 2015, while 290 ATMs had been withdrawn in the past year.

Which? said the closure of cash machines, the majority of which were free to use, had hit Scotland harder than other parts of the UK because of its "many rural communities, combined with an already devastated bank branch network".

In Scotland, withdrawals from machines were down just 3.3% in 2017-18, compared with larger drops of 8.5% and 7.7% in London and the south east of England respectively.

Which? warned the UK risked "drifting into a cashless society that could shut people out of paying for local goods and services".

Labour are calling on the UK Government to introduce a statutory duty to protect access to cash.

Commenting Colin Smyth said, “What this report from Which? reveals is that when we have bank closures these are often followed by the loss of cash machines.

Given the huge number of bank branch closures, we have seen locally in recent years, some of our villages no longer have a bank at all. That means access to cash machines is becoming more and more difficult for many communities. Despite new methods to make payments like contactless, we still need access to cash at the very least as a back-up or to use in the many places that don’t have alternatives.

It’s clear UK Government have done nothing to protect against the closures of local bank branches and cash machines and we need more action from them. They should change the law to ensure that banks cannot close their branches where it is the last in a town or village without proper consultation and the final decision should be made by the independent Financial Conduct Authority. A legal duty should be placed on banks to provide a certain number of free cash machines in an area. Without such action cash machines will soon follow bank branches in moving out of our towns and villages”