Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

Local Labour politicians have hit out at the latest round of bank closures to impact on communities across the South of Scotland.

MSP Colin Smyth described the closures as “devastating news for communities” and warned that it could be a matter of time before only cities and the largest towns in Scotland have any bank branches left. He accused the UK Government of failing to take action to prevent closures, despite this being just the latest round of announcements by banks axing branches.

The comments come as Lloyds Banking Group announced the closure of 60 branches across the UK.

The company said it would shut 24 Lloyds Bank branches, 19 Bank of Scotland branches and 17 Halifax branches and 124 jobs will be impacted by the closure.

In the South of Scotland the move will see Bank of Scotland branches close in Carluke, Kirkcudbright, Lockerbie, Innerleithen, Selkirk and Troon.

Colin Smyth said, “This is devastating news for communities and in particular the staff at branches facing the axe. My thoughts are with them and their families and I will be urging the bank to do all they can to assist their workers find alternative employment, which is the very least they can do.”

“This round of branch closures is the latest in the dismantling of the local bank network and I really do fear it is only a matter of time before only cities and the largest towns have any banks at all.”

“The axing of these banks came out of the blue but it is a long term trend. We have seen an utter dereliction of duty by the UK Government with their failure to bring in tougher rules before a bank can be closed, including an obligation on the banking sector to maintain at least one branch in every town”.

“Bank branches should not be allowed to close without a proper consultation process and the final approval of the Financial Conduct Authority with a presumption against closure when a branch is the last in a town. Many banks including the Bank of Scotland are racking up the profits, but turning their backs on communities and they should not be allowed to get away with it. The fact they made this decision based on customer numbers at the height of the pandemic, is just not acceptable and these closures should be blocked by the UK Government.”

The closures will leave Lockerbie without a bank and only the Cumberland Building Society while Kirkcudbright, Innerleithen, Selkirk and Carluke find themselves as the latest towns to see the closure of the last bank branch.

Clydesdale West Councillor Lynsey Hamilton who covers the Carluke area  said, “The announcement of the closure of the Bank of Scotland is a massive shock to the community in Carluke. This will leave the largest town in Clydesdale with no banking facilities. The demise of services to this town over the past 10 years is a disgrace.”

“Myself and fellow Councillor Eileen Logan will be writing to the Bank of Scotland asking for an urgent meeting to seek alternatives to this closure. “

“Banks need to start putting people before profit. They claim that they aren’t busy however there always seems to be a queue to see someone. Digital banking has it place in our society however it should not be at the loss of physical interaction. There are many people in the community in Carluke who simply don’t have access to digital services and they now face having to travel some distance just to access a bank”.

Labour has called for changes in the law by the UK a government requiring that banks must undertake consultation with all customers of the branch which it proposes to close and publish details of the reasons for closure, including financial calculations showing the revenues and costs of the relevant branch. The consultation should be overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and closures would only be allowed with FCA approval.  Labour has also urged the Scottish Government to do more to establish community hubs where banks, Post Offices and councils shared premises to cut costs.

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