An Aberfeldy cafe owner whose business went cash-free a year ago after the closure of the last bank in the town says he is inundated with enquiries from businesses planning to do the same - as a Westminster Committee prepares to hear evidence on the impact of bank closures on Scottish communities.
Mike Haggerton, whose Habitat Cafe on the town’s The Square made the decision to stop accepting cash last February, said dozens of businesses from across Scotland had been in touch looking for advice after their own banking facilities disappeared.
The news comes as Santander, RBS, TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are set to give evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee on access to financial services, amid concern at the significant reduction in bank branches and ATMs in Scotland in recent years.
The number of ATMs and bank facilities in Scotland has been reducing dramatically over the last few years, raising serious concern about how many businesses and communities will cope with reduced access to cash. In the last year, 290 ATMs have been withdrawn from Scotland – many of which were free to use – and since 2015, a third of bank branches in Scotland have closed down.
Mr Haggerton said that the cafe had decided to stop accepting cash after the final bank branch - run by RBS - closed in Aberfeldy.
He said: “It’s been great, though we were really worried before we did it. As a town, we had looked at all of the other options for us - mobile banking and so on - and none of them worked.
We had to do something, as we had no facilities to do our banking - we were going to have to close down otherwise. Then we heard about cafes in London which had done it and we thought we’d give it a try.”
He added: “Over the past 14 months, customers have gone from ‘I don’t quite understand it’ to ‘I actually prefer it.’ We have had a lot of businesses contacting me both locally and nationally asking me how it works for us.”
Last year, the Scottish Affairs Committee concluded that RBS programme closing 62 bank branches would have a devastating impact on communities affected, removing vital services from businesses and individuals alike, and that RBS had underestimated how much people rely on traditional in-branch banking services and should halt the closure programme.
The committee will tomorrow take evidence from Susan Allen, head of retail and business banking at Santander, Carol Anderson, Scotland distribution director at TSB, Ricky Diggins, network director at Bank of Scotland and Simon Watson, managing director of personal banking at RBS.