New analysis from Which? reveals that Scotland lost over a third of its bank and building society branches in just eight years, raising concerns that consumers and businesses alike could struggle to access cash across the country.
The consumer champion looked at data from the Office for National Statistics and found 610 fewer banks or building societies across the country in 2018 compared with 2010 – slashing the total number of branches from 1,625 to 1,015.
Further to this, Which? can reveal the constituencies that lost the most branches over this period. Edinburgh South West was hardest hit with a massive 135 closures, cutting the network to just 30 remaining branches in 2018. This is followed by Glasgow Central, which lost 70, Edinburgh North & Leith, 65 and Edinburgh East, 45.
Meanwhile, Angus, Dundee West, Falkirk and Paisley & Renfrewshire North all lost 15 branches.
Which? has also carried out its own tracking of branch closures since 2015. In the period since then, RBS has closed most branches – shutting 158 of the 399 banks that have disappeared.
It is followed by Bank of Scotland (86), Clydesdale (59), Santander (38) and TSB (35).
These losses have been compounded by a sharp rise in the rate of cashpoint closures throughout the UK last year, which saw 290 ATMs close in Scotland. The majority of these machines (204) were free-to-use cashpoints that give people access to their cash without having to pay a hefty fee for each withdrawal.
Concerned by the double blow of cashpoint and bank closures across Scotland, Which? is calling on the UK Government to give a single regulator a duty to protect access to cash and ensure no-one is left behind by these rapid changes to the payments landscape.
This intervention is badly-needed in rural areas, where people may face longer journeys to access cash and broadband speeds are gradually improving from a low level.
But it is equally necessary in urban areas, where cash is vital as a back-up when card and cashless payments collapse.
Which? recently revealed that UK banks were hit by 302 IT shutdowns in the last nine months of 2018 – that’s more than one major IT or security failure every day that prevents customers from making payments.
While digital payments are rising, cash is still a necessity for more than 25 million people across the UK.
A previous Which? survey found that three quarters of people in Scotland (75%) use cash frequently, while just four percent said they rarely use this payment method.
Just recently, the Ceeney review into access to cash warned that the UK’s cash network was ‘on the verge of collapse,’ and called for urgent action from banks, Government and regulators to guarantee access to cash.
As MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee meet in Westminster today to discuss access to cash, Which? is warning that without urgent regulatory action the UK risks drifting into a no-cash society that could shut people out of paying for local goods and services.
Gareth Shaw, Head of Money, Which?, said:
“These ongoing closures could have a huge impact on communities across Scotland, stripping millions of people reliant on cash of their ability to go about their daily lives.
“Cash is also a vital backup when digital systems fail – so the UK Government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no-one is shut out from paying for local goods and services.”
Notes to editors
Public Finance & Digital Economy Minister, Kate Forbes, said:
“Cash payments remain an essential part of day to day life for many, especially for vulnerable consumers and those in rural communities. The recent loss of free to use ATMs, on top of the wave of bank branch closures across the UK, has hit Scotland’s communities and businesses disproportionately hard.
“I have written to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury supporting Which?’s campaign calling for a single regulator with the duty to protect access to cash, ensuring that cash remains accessible to all. I urge the UK Government to continue to press the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to use its powers in a robust and proportionate way, ensuring that cash remains a viable part of the financial infrastructure across the UK.
“Despite telecoms being a reserved matter, the Scottish Government is building on the success of the £400 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, which has brought broadband to more than 95% of the country. We are investing a further £600 million to ensure Scotland is at the forefront of digital connectivity through our Reaching 100% programme.”
- Which? analysed NOMIS figures that show bank and building society branch numbers across the UK broken down into UK Parliamentary constituencies. The figures go back to 2010 when constituency boundaries were last changed and reveal that, in Scotland, the branch network shrunk by 37.5% (610 branches) between 2010 and the end of 2018. This is a net loss. The NOMIS figures are rounded to the nearest five banks and building societies in each constituency. The same records also provided details of the hardest hit areas in Scotland.
- Which? has tracked bank branch closures across the UK since 2015 by bank, date and location. These closure figures by brand do not take into account new branches that might have opened or the relative size of a brand’s Scottish network. Figures were last updated in January 2019.
- Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2076 UK adults online between 7-9th September 2018, of which 171 were from Scotland. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of the population.
- Nearly all of Scottish consumers say they have ever used cash (98%), and 3 in 4 (75%) use cash frequently (1-2 times a week or more)
- Just 4% of those in Scotland say they rarely use cash (use cash about every three months or less).
- Which? findings into regular IT outages at major banks can be found here