Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has demanded that the Tory government steps in to save island banking services in a Scottish Parliament debate highlighting the negative impact of branch closures on communities across Scotland.

The debate follows a damning report by Holyrood’s Economy Committee which investigated the impact of local bank closures across Scotland. The report found that:

• The worst impact of bank closures will be felt by the most vulnerable members of our society, for whom going into a branch may be the only feasible way to conduct their banking;
• Bank closures across Scotland have had a “negative impact” on people and businesses across Scotland, with communities experiencing a reduction in footfall for businesses and tourism on their high streets;
• Banks’ claims that the closures were driven by demand are not backed by evidence, considering customers were not consulted.

Figures show that the number of bank branches reduced by a third across Scotland between 2010 and 2017, and while the UK Government is responsible for the regulation of banking services and owns a controlling stake in RBS, it has failed to use its influence to represent Scottish communities and reverse these closures.

The Scottish Government has continued to engage closely with banks and senior representatives from all major companies in the financial services industry on the issue of branch closures and the provision of banking services.

Commenting Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I am grateful to the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee for bringing such a comprehensive and helpful report to Parliament and for facilitating today’s debate.

“Concluding that it is the most vulnerable who will be affected most by these closures, the Committee report says: ‘RBS previously said that it would not shut the last branch in town. Clearly that was a hollow promise.’ Nowhere was that promise more obviously hollow than on the Isle of Barra.

“Some 12,000 people – ten times the population of Barra – have signed a petition demanding RBS reverse the decision about the branch closure, recognising that this is indeed perhaps the most extreme example of RBS’s callousness towards its rural customers.

“It cannot have escaped the notice of any community in Scotland facing such closures that the cost to the UK taxpayer of bailing out RBS was some £45.5 billion. Last week RBS Chairman Sir Howard Davies admitted that it was “unlikely” that the UK Government would be able to recoup this money. It seems that despite all this, RBS don’t see themselves as having any responsibility to provide a service to these taxpayers.

“RBS is still effectively owned by the Conservative Government as they own some 62% of RBS shares. It is within their power to save branches such as Castlebay, and I urge them to step in and finally end the uncertainty surrounding its future.”

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