The Black Isle loses its last remaining bank branch

A large swathe of the Highlands has been left without a bank branch for the first time in two centuries.

The Bank of Scotland in Fortrose has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: Google
The Bank of Scotland in Fortrose has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: Google

The last remaining branch on the Black Isle, a Bank of Scotland in Fortrose, closed its doors for the final time yesterday.

Other lenders have already closed on the peninsula, which includes the communities of Avoch, Cromarty and Munlochy.

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Bank of Scotland said its decision to axe the branch follows a drop in customer numbers, which have fallen to about eight a week, while the number of counter transactions made by personal customers tumbled by 30 per cent last year.

Cash machines will continue to be available in Fortrose, and Bank of Scotland said a mobile bank visits the village twice a week.

A spokesman said the closure was the “result of the changing ways our customers bank and the fact that they now visit this branch much less frequently”.

He added: “We have introduced and informed customers of our mobile branch service, which visits Fortrose twice a week and allows customers to continue to access banking services, with bank colleagues still on hand to help them access online banking and answer any general account or product enquiries.”

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “North of Inverness, ten banks have closed in the last two to three years. This has massive implications for local businesses, the banks’ local customers and visitors.”

Business leaders have already warned that the closure of a string of bank branches across the Highlands could damage the popularity of the North Coast 500 route.

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Described as “Scotland’s answer to Route 66”, the NC500 starts at Inverness and heads north to Dingwall and the Black Isle, Sutherland and Caithness, then comes down into Wester Ross and the Applecross peninsula before heading back towards to Inverness.

In the first year since the 516-mile stretch was officially launched in 2015 by North Highland Initiative, 29,000 more people visited the north of Scotland, spending an additional £9 million locally.

However, small businesses say the success of the new initiative, named as one of the top six coastal routes in the world, could be jeopardised by banks closing down branches in remote areas, leaving both tourists and local people without access to ATMs and services.

As well as shutting its Fortrose branch, Bank of Scotland announced in April that it was closing sites in Beauly, Bonar Bridge, Dornoch, Helmsdale and Lairg.

Royal Bank of Scotland has closed branches in Invergordon, Lybster and Lochinver over the past two years and the Clydesdale closed down its branch in Thurso.