Holyrood launch inquiry into bank branch closures

The Scottish parliament is to hold an inquiry into the community impact of the closure of a third of Scotland's bank branches since 2010.

62 RBS branches across Scotland including Hawicks High Street face the threat of closure. Picture: contributed

Holyrood’s economy committee said Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow and East Ayrshire have seen its bank numbers reduce by around a half, while Edinburgh has experienced the greatest decrease of more than 60 per cent of its banks. Meanwhile, in Aberdeenshire, Moray, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee and Falkirk bank numbers have decreased by around at least 20 per cent.

Reasons for the steep decline in numbers of Scotland’s banks are said to be varied and range from the impact of the financial crisis and new regulatory costs bearing down on banks’ profits to falls in demand for the use of cheques and increased use of electronic payment services.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In its inquiry, the committee will scrutinise the impact of these bank closures on local businesses and economies, including tourism and SMEs and on consumers. It has also launched a survey and a call for written views asking personal and business banking customers for their views on bank closures.

Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has come under increasing public pressure in recent months after it announced plans to close 62 branches across Scotland, many of them in isolated rural communities. RBS has offered a reprieve until the end of the year for ten of the branches.

Gordon Lindhurst, convener of Holyrood’s economy, jobs and fair work committee, said: “For Scotland to lose more than a third of its banks in just seven years seems a staggering statistic. This inquiry will work to respond to significant public concern that the impact of closures is felt most in places where no viable alternative exists.”

He added: “The committee wants to know what can be done to help remedy a seemingly relentless decline in Scotland’s banks. Crucially, what are the alternatives that can help support local businesses and communities, and enable them to thrive for the benefit of all?”

Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Scottish Parliament’s economy committee is absolutely right to investigate the impact of bank closures on Scottish local communities and economies.

“We’d ask the committee to investigate whether the alternatives which the banks suggest – namely digital banking and utilising the Post Office network – will work for all of their customers, including cash-based businesses. We’d also ask MSPs to urgently investigate the threat to Scotland’s ATM network which could exacerbate the impact of the withdrawal of local banking services.”