A Highland village is awaiting the arrival of a major banking group’s “ambassador for Scotland” to air their grievances about a mobile bank which has replaced branches in remote areas.
Philip Grant, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group’s Scottish executive committee, based at the bank’s headquarters at the Mound in Edinburgh, is to visit the village of Bonar Bridge in Sutherland later this month.
Grant received a raft of correspondence from pensioner Michael Baird, who has been a long-term campaigner against the closure of branches in the Highlands.
Bank branches in Scotland fell by a third between 2010 and 2017 with various groups downsizing, citing a surge of internet banking.
Baird, a retired scientific officer, has also attended a number of the banking group’s annual general meetings to ask questions about how the bank implemented its policy.
Mobile banks replaced closed branches in the Highlands but are leaving problems in their wake.
Grant wrote a personal letter last month to Baird, from Bonar Bridge, asking if they could meet at the mobile bank at 10.30am on 26 March to discuss concerns.
Baird said: “Philip Grant got in touch with me totally out of the blue saying he had been reviewing the correspondence I’d sent him.
“The closures are a breach of the banking protocol that before any bank closure there should be consultation with affected parties. This never happened. Instead they jumped on the ‘loophole’ of it being a commercial decision.
“The days the Bank of Scotland at Bonar Bridge was open were cut until it finally closed in September 2017.
“We now have a mobile bank which is not fit for purpose.
“It arrives for two hours on a Tuesday between 10am and noon but there can be large queues meaning not everyone can be seen.
“There is no privacy for people to discuss their personal business.
“If you miss the mobile it means up to a 50-mile round trip to Tain. Not everyone has transport, so to get to a bank means getting two buses to Tain.”
Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Mr Grant is welcome, he’s doing more than many of the others have done.
“I think he’ll see for himself what the difficulties are.
“It would be good if he would work with other banks so that between them they could provide a service.
“An individual bank might lose customers that way but it would show that they had a sense of social responsibilty.
“There are a range of issues including frail, elderly people being asked to queue outside.
“We have also asked questions about disability discrimination.”
A Lloyds Banking group spokesman said: “As chair of our Scottish executive committee, Philip travels regularly around Scotland meeting colleagues and customers in what he sees as a very important part of his role.
“He’ll be meeting colleagues at our mobile branch in Bonar Bridge later this month where he will also be speaking to some of our customers.”