A north-east MSP has accused the Scottish Government of leaving the elderly in Aberdeen “short-changed” amid a wave of post office closures.
Conservative MSP Douglas Lumsden raised concerns at Holyrood about the impact Post Office closures and “extortionate” charges to use bank machines could have on those most vulnerable.
The former council leader urged ministers to take action and protect the elderly in the Granite City from being “cut off from society” due to the lack of available places to withdraw money – without being subject to high ATM charges.
The inquiry comes after figures from ATM network Link showed withdrawals in the city had reduced by as much as 70% during the pandemic.
And statistics obtained by the P&J also showed that post office branches across the north and north-east have more than halved during the last 20 years.
The data revealed nearly 67% of all bank branches in Aberdeen South have closed since 2015 while 52% have been lost in Aberdeen North.
Speaking in parliament today, Mr Lumsden quizzed business minister Ivan McKee on what was being done to protect the elderly from a cashless society.
He said: “An alternative to ATMs for many has been to withdraw cash from their local post office, but we have also seen a large number of post office closures.
“How will the government ensure our vulnerable and elderly can access their cash without being short-changed by extortionate fees?”
Risk of the north-east being left with only a handful of branches?
Mr Lumsden has previously voiced his fears over the current situation describing the trend of closures across the north and north-east “extremely concerning”.
Earlier this year CJ Lang, which operates Spar stores in Scotland, announced it would no longer be offering postal services at counters in many of its shops.
A total of five Post Office branches were earmarked for closure, of which three have already shut their doors to customers, leaving residents “abandoned in their hour of need”.
The Seaton and Torry branches closed permanently on August 31, while the Kincorth Post Office closed earlier that month.
Clifton Road and Northfield’s counters are also due to close in October and February respectively.
In response to the concerns, Mr McKee recognised the issue in the Granite City, saying he will be directly raising current access to cash infrastructure in talks with the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority on Thursday.
Mr Lumsden later added: “I was glad Ivan McKee acknowledged the issue because Aberdeen is sleepwalking into a cashless society with the elderly and most vulnerable being left behind.
“Older people who use cash and their local bank or post office are finding it increasingly impossible to manage their money because more and more barriers are being put in their way.
“The SNP Government must start recognising how important banks and post offices are to places like Aberdeen.
“It’s vital that people aren’t excluded from society due to a lack of infrastructure in communities.”