Nicola Sturgeon has urged banks to pay “very close attention” to the need for rural communities to access cash, following news of TSB branch closures in the north and north east.
The first minister said she was involved in discussions with banks about the importance of servicing remote and deprived areas following this week’s announcement.
Asked at her daily briefing about the impact the closures would have on an economy already suffering as a result of the coronavirus, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think there are always concerns around bank closures, particularly around rural communities where access to cash and financial services is particularly important.
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“We encourage banks to pay very close attention to that need for access in more rural communities or more deprived communities and to be very careful about these decisions.
“We have ongoing discussions with banks and financial services sector generally – not least through the Financial Services Advisory Board, which I co-chair – and we make our views very clear.
“We understand the changing pattern of how people access these services, which banks have to reflect, but we also always make the point about the importance of local access.”
Company plans hundreds of job losses
TSB’s plans to reduce its Scottish footprint by more than half by the end of next year will result in Aberdeen losing seven banks.
The Spanish-owned chain currently has 37 branches in the north and north-east; with two – in Insch and Grantown – never to open their doors again.
In Aberdeen, communities in Bucksburn, Culter, Dyce, Kincorth, Mannofield, St Machar and Torry will lose their local branch.
Across Aberdeenshire, TSB wants to ends its permanent presence in Aboyne, Alford, Banchory, Huntly and Turriff too.
In the Highlands, branches in Dingwall, Nairn and Wick have all been earmarked for closure as well.
The high street brand plans 73 closures across Scotland – resulting in 300 job losses overall – by the end of 2021.
Councillor Gwyneth Petrie, who represents the Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford ward where two closures are planned, said: “The closure of the TSB banks in both Alford and Huntly will leave both places with no physical banks in place, and the news has come as a blow to both communities.
“As much as a number of people do now do their banking online, there are a percentage of the population who don’t – and this decision has been taken with no regard for these customers, or the communities affected.
“In Huntly, in particular, we have been fighting hard to regenerate the town centre. The loss of the TSB will leave yet another empty building, and no ATM in the town centre.
“As a matter of urgency, the TSB needs to inform customers whether they intend to put a mobile service in place to ensure they don’t face a significant drive just for everyday banking.”
Meanwhile Councillor Phillip Bell, who represents Lower Deeside, which will see a branch removed in Peterculter, said: “Banks provide a service because if they didn’t no-one would use them. We are very fortunate in Cults to have the Bank of Scotland who do care about their customers and are utilised by many.”