New analysis from Which? reveals more than a third of Scotland’s bank branches closed in just four and a half years, with many of those that remain now offering limited opening times for customers already struggling from reduced bank access.
Investigating the bank branch network in Scotland between January 2015 and August 2019, the consumer champion found that a staggering 396 branches (38%) shut down as banks continued to close branches at an alarming rate – reducing the overall branch network from 1,039 to just 643.
For the first time, Which? has investigated bank opening hours and found that Scottish customers already struggling with a devastated branch network can also now face severely curtailed opening times.
Which? found that 11 branches open just one day a week, while 31 are open for just two.
Overall, almost one in seven (14% and 87 branches) only open three days a week or less.
Which? found that RBS had closed 74 percent of its bank branches across the UK during this period – with the majority in Scotland, where 158 branches closed (63% of its Scottish network).
Meanwhile, Bank of Scotland closed 94 branches, equivalent to 32% of its network. This was followed by Clydesdale (59 closed, 47%), TSB (39 closed, 21%) and Santander (36 closed, 44%)
At Westminster constituency level in Scotland, the hardest hit areas were:
Edinburgh East, which lost 11 branches, equivalent to almost two-thirds (61%) of its network.
Moray lost three-fifths (59%) of its branches, seeing 16 close.
This was followed by Edinburgh South West and Paisley & Renfrewshire North, which both lost eight branches, equivalent to 57 per cent of their networks.
Linlithgow & East Falkirk lost nine branches, which is 56 per cent of its network.
In some areas, banks offer “mobile branches,” which provide a range of everyday financial services but they simply do not offer the same convenience of access as a bank branch. These can be scant consolation for a dedicated branch and risk leaving many customers struggling to carry out their banking needs through a very limited window of service.
Which? recognises that the shift towards online banking offers great benefits and convenience, but if banks close physical branches they must communicate effectively with communities and ensure people have all the support they need to make the most of digital alternatives.
With around a third (30%) of the UK population still not using online banking, banks must also explore more innovative ways to ensure those who rely on face-to-face banking are able to access it.
Which? is calling on the UK Government to take action to guarantee people’s ability to access and pay with cash, ensuring that millions of people who rely on it as a payment method are not left behind as digital payments grow in popularity.
Jenny Ross, Which?, Money Editor, said:
“Banks are closing their branches at an alarming rate in Scotland, which risks shutting many people out of vital financial services and their ability to access their own cash.
“Bank branches play a crucial role within communities – serving consumers and businesses alike. The industry must ensure no-one is left behind by the digital transition and that when banks shut their doors they don’t shut their customers out of important banking services.”
Notes to editors
Which? has tracked every bank branch closure since January 2015 at 20 main current account providers. Barclays is the only bank not to have fully shared closure information with us. This research is from January 2015 – August 2019.
UK Finance state that 70 percent of the adult population used online banking in 2018.
Mobile banking hours offered by banks:
RBS: 440, Bank of Scotland: 144
Information about mobile banking services was obtained from the open banking API