Bank branches closing faster in Scotland than rest of UK

Bank branches are closing at a faster rate in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, according to a report.

Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor of the Federation of Small Business. Picture: TSPL

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the closures are problematic for its members.

Statistics from the Competition and Markets Authority show that between 2013 and 2014, the number of bank branches north of the border fell by 7.7% - from 1,123 to 1,037.

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Over the same period, the number of branches in England fell by 5%, 5.7% in Wales and 6.4% in Northern Ireland.

The FSB is writing to the Scottish Government and banking chiefs in Scotland asking for their views on how to minimise the impact of closures.

It has published a report stating that branch closures are damaging local economies and making it harder for firms to access banking services.

It spoke to businesses in a series of UK-wide focus groups where practical problems associated with travelling further to get change and to deposit cash or cheques were raised.

Firms also cite their preference for face-to-face interaction when seeking business advice about growth and finance.

In addition, the report looked at the negative impact branch closures can have on footfall in town centres.

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convener, said: “Banks are disappearing from Scottish high streets and this poses problems for both local firms and communities.

“We recognise that more businesses are using online banking. But, as our report highlights, these services don’t fill the gap left by boarded-up branches.

“Further, because Scotland lags behind England in terms of both mobile and broadband coverage, the impact of the withdrawal of local services is exacerbated.

“It is unfortunate too that other large private and public bodies are choosing to consolidate their estates and withdraw to urban centres.

“In our view, there’s insufficient scrutiny of the local economic impact of these closures and the cumulative impact is significant. This is an area where we expect leadership from councils and the Scottish Government.”