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Half a million Scots risk struggling to access cash amid bank closures

Cash machines outside a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Glasgow after the news of the bank's proposal to register itself in England if Scotland votes for independence.
Access to cash in Scotland paints a deeply concerning picture. Photo: PA (PA)

Half a million people across Scotland who are dependent on cash risk being cut off from accessing their money as banks ramp up branch closures.

More than half (53%) of all bank branches in Scotland have shut down since 2015. This represents the highest percentage loss across the UK’s four nations, according to a report from the Scottish Affairs committee.

“Access to cash across Scotland has been decimated in recent years, leading to Westminster committees investigating the issue multiple times,” Scottish Affairs Committee chair, Pete Wishart, said.

“While the move to digital banking and payments has offered a method at which to do transactions that many of us enjoy, we cannot forget the 500,000 people in Scotland who rely on cash in their day-to-day lives.”


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“With the cost of living crisis deepening, many people are using cash for budgeting. But what is deeply worrying is that bank branches are closing at a record rate with very limited research or thought conducted of the possible widespread implications,” he added.

MPS are worried that the rapid rate of bank branch closures across Scotland may be as a result of banks rushing to close doors before the new rules that will protect access to cash and banking services come into force.

The Financial Services and Markets Bill contains provisions to ensure people across the UK can continue to be able to access their own cash.

Under the Bill, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will be granted new powers over the UK’s largest banks and building societies, to ensure that cash withdrawal and deposit facilities are available in communities across the country.

“It is welcome that the government is legislating to protect access to cash. However, this positive announcement is beset by the risk that banks may close their doors before legislation on this matter comes into force,” Wishart said.

In 2009, 56% of transactions were in cash, but today cash payments represent only 17% of all transactions.

Despite this, cash remains the second most frequently used form of payment, second only to debit cards, the report said.

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Currently, 5.4 million people, or about 10% of adults in the UK, are reliant on cash. In Scotland, approximately 500,000 people are reliant on cash, one in every 10 Scots.

The Post Office has filled the void of many banking services within communities but Scotland has seen the highest percentage of Post Office closures anywhere in the UK.

Age Scotland told MPs that many older people, such as those on low and fixed incomes or a limited budget, prefer to use cash as a means of effective budgeting or because they are more comfortable with this form of payment.

The committee is urging the government to set up a working group to study the introduction of network-wide deposit-taking ATMs that would provide a “vital service” to both consumers and businesses.

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