South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has backed the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, as he encouraged members to pressure the UK Government to do more to halt rural bank closures.
Ms McAlpine’s comments followed Wednesday’s session of portfolio questions where MSPs discussed the impact of banking closures on the rural economy.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Our region will be affected with local branches of Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale and Lloyds Bank all announcing closures.
“The UK Government regulate the banking sector and must do more to halt these rural branch closures.
“Many customers still value the face to face engagement with experienced and knowledgeable bank staff.
“The industry should respond to the needs of their customers and open their eyes to what these closures are doing to rural communities.”
SNP MSP Richard Lochhead encouraged members to speak to the UK Government – which is responsible for regulating the banking sector - as well as speaking directly to the banks themselves “to ensure that they deliver a minimum standard of banking services in our rural communities and that they understand the very serious impact that their withdrawing high street banks is having on the more vulnerable members of our society”.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, said:
“It is right that all members, whatever their political persuasion, encourage the UK Government to consider an approach along the lines that Mr Lochhead and other members from all parts of the chamber have suggested.”
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“Bank closures make life very difficult for people in rural communities and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the local economy, not least where these closures also result in job losses.
“These banks will point to the reduced number of transactions made in branch, but the fact remains that many people in rural communities are reliant on a face-to-face service.
“The UK Government must intervene to halt branch closures – it even has shares in many of these banks.
“This seems like another example of managed decline for rural Scotland under Tory watch.
“Whether you are someone who prefers to speak directly to staff, if you struggle to get online or are running a local business with complex banking needs – bank branches provide a vital service.”