Rhoda's speech in the Scottish Parliament member's debate
14 June 2016
I congratulate Iain Gray on securing the debate.
I understand that the RBS branch closure is a big problem for his constituents in Prestonpans.
I share Iain Gray’s concern, because RBS is taking similar action throughout the Highlands and Islands, which is causing problems for my constituents.
Most recent is its decision to reduce opening hours in the branches in Campbeltown, Bowmore and Scarinish.
The two island branches are open only two days a week, and access to an alternative branch involves a ferry journey.
People in Campbeltown and Prestonpans might not be on islands, but they too cannot easily access an alternative branch.
Those service reductions by RBS follow last year’s closure of branches in the Highlands and Islands—in Lochinver, Stromness, Invergordon and Lybster.
However, the problem is not just to do with RBS; many high street banks, including the Bank of Scotland, are following suit and closing branches in remote areas.
It is simply wrong of the banks to take a wholly business-focused approach and ignore the needs of their customers, who are the very taxpayers who bailed them out not so long ago.
It is simply wrong that banks are ignoring their duty to repay their debt of gratitude and are cutting services.
Banks cite internet banking as the reason for the reduction in services, telling us that there is reduced footfall.
In my area, that adds insult to injury, because banks are targeting service cuts at places where internet access is patchy at best.
Areas that have an unreliable internet service and no branch have no banking services at all.
In addition, elderly people are less likely to bank online and are more vulnerable to fraudulent activity through telephone or email banking scams.
The needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities are being ignored.
If we are to help to protect such people, we need to ensure that they have access to information and services at local branches of their banks.
We perhaps also need to think about how we support credit unions to open branches in small communities, to enable elderly people, people who do not use internet banking and people who do not have bank accounts to access financial services.
It seems to me that banks have altogether given up that role in the community and we need to look at alternative provision.
Banks have a duty to the customers who bailed them out.
It is time for Government to intervene on behalf of customers to try to stop the closures.