After years of bank branch and cashpoint closures, Scottish trust in day-to-day banking services is lower than anywhere else in the UK, according to Which?’s annual Scottish Consumer Insight Report.
The consumer champion’s in-depth analysis for 2018 unpicks the trends and financial outlook of the average Scottish consumer and brings together extensive research garnered from speaking to a total of 1,075 people throughout the year.
The report reveals that across the last year, fewer than two in five Scots (39%) said they trusted day-to-day banking services compared to 45 per cent in the UK as a whole.
Last month, Which? found Scotland has lost a third of its bank branches in the last eight years, with the number of banks and building societies plummeting from 1,625 to 1,015 between 2010 and 2018.
With cash machines also closing at an alarming rate, Which? is concerned that Scottish communities and businesses could face financial exclusion unless a regulator is urgently given a statutory duty to protect access to cash.
The report also reveals that four in 10 people (39%) in Scotland said they trust broadband services, significantly fewer than the UK average (45%).
Which? analysed users of its own broadband speed checker tool throughout 2018 and found that in 18 constituencies across the UK, including six in Scotland, at least half of tests failed to achieve 10Mbps. This is below the broadband universal service obligation (USO), which will provide a legal right to request a broadband connection of at least 10Mbps and should be in place by 2020.
The Scottish Government has also pledged to ensure all of Scotland has access to superfast broadband by 2021, yet according to Which? analysis just 13 constituencies achieved a broadband speed of over 20 Mbps.
The findings from the Consumer Insight Report also revealed that two-thirds (66%) of Scots were satisfied with their standard of living, and half (47%) were happy with their current household finances. Just over a quarter (27%) believed their household finances would improve within the next year, while two in five (41%) felt they would stay the same, which was the same as the UK figures, where 26 per cent believed it would improve and 44 per cent felt it would stay the same.
One in five Scots (20%) had a positive outlook on the UK economy, but only one in seven (15%) believed it would improve in the next year and more than half (53%) anticipated the economy would get worse.
Everyday essentials remained the biggest worry for Scots, with seven in 10 (69%) concerned about energy – three percentage points more than the previous year and than for the rest of the UK (66%).
Seven in 10 (69%) were also concerned about fuel prices and public spending cuts, while two-thirds (65%) were worried about Brexit compared to six in 10 in the UK (60%).
More Scots expected their energy and fuel bills to rise, compared with consumers across the UK. Two in five (38%) anticipated the price of gas and electricity would increase compared to a third (33%) in the UK, while a third in Scotland (33%) and the UK (31%) also believed costs involved with running a car, such as fuel, will rise.
Which? research also found Scots’ trust in certain industries was rock bottom – less than one in 10 said they trusted car dealers (8%) or estate and letting agents (10%) and only a quarter (25%) had confidence in longer-term financial products. Train companies and airline/holiday providers are also among the least trusted industries, enjoying the trust of 26 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Trust in train travel dropped seven percentage points compared to last year.
As the Scottish Government prepares to launch the legislation to establish Consumer Scotland, the new body to represent consumers in Scotland, the findings from the Consumer Insight Report provide invaluable insight into the concerns and attitudes of Scottish consumers and should guide the body on issues that need to be addressed.
Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy said:
“Scottish consumers are struggling with dwindling day-to-day banking services and poor broadband connections and our research suggests this could be having an impact on trust in these vital industries, and demonstrates the need for a dedicated consumer body backed by the Scottish Government.
“If Consumer Scotland is to be a real force for improving the lives of ordinary people, it must take on board the concerns highlighted in this report – and make tackling them a top priority.”
Notes to editors
- The Consumer Insight Tracker has conducted bi-monthly surveys of more than 2,000 consumers per survey across the UK to gauge perception of and attitudes to the consumer landscape. To understand the key consumer attitudes in 2018, Which? has boosted these data to a minimum of 1,000 consumers in each region of the UK. This report is based on a sample of 1,075 respondents from Scotland.
- To find out more, visit our Consumer Insight page at https://consumerinsight.which.co.uk/, where you can access our data on consumer attitudes, perceptions and concerns broken down to the constituency level across the UK.
- Data from the Which? Broadband speed checker is based on 20,780 tests from users across Scotland in 2018.
- According to parliamentary records, there were 20,583 bank branches in 1988, but Which? analysis of all the current account providers shows that there are just 7,586 today, a reduction of two-thirds of the network.
- The full Scottish Consumer Insight Report is available on request.