Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has questioned Kate Forbes, the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, about reports that criminals are targeting rural businesses due to the lack of facilities to bank cash.
Mrs Grant, at General Questions in Holyrood today, asked what the Scottish Government was doing to support Highlands and Islands businesses experiencing losses due to cuts in rural banking services.
Her question follows reports in the media that a Highland village was being targeted by thieves knowing that scores of bank branches have been closed and services cut across the region.
The MSP said: “Businesses that deal in cash are especially vulnerable because there appears to be increase in break-ins surrounding those types of businesses. That is costing them financially but also impacting on business confidence. I wonder what the Scottish Government is doing to protect and support these businesses that are vulnerable to break-ins?”
Ms Forbes said that Mrs Grant raised a very good point. She said that practical advice on how to develop business crime reduction and prevention strategies was carried out by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre which received grant funding from the Scottish Government but also work was on-going with the banks themselves in the Banking and Economy Sub-Group of The Financial Services Advisory Board (FiSAB) to ensure that between Government and banks businesses have the security they need when it comes to dealing with cash.
Afterwards Mrs Grant said: “This is a very serious subject for small businesses who sometimes face very long journeys to get to a bank to deposit money or pick up a float and I think the Scottish Government should be doing more to delve into this.
“It’s easy to forget that cash is still of great importance to local economies, especially important for local independent shops and community-based tourism including B&Bs, small hotels, campsites, cafés and bars.
“An HIE survey last year found that the vast majority of businesses (87.2%) were still taking a significant proportion of their turnover in cash and that having a fully functioning banking service is critical to remote and rural communities.
“Although banks make much of internet banking, the connectivity is not yet up to scratch in many areas and cannot be relied on.”
Mrs Grant is contacting Police Scotland to find out what they are doing to help businesses in crime prevention and to find out the extent of the problem in the region.