Kate Forbes MSP has accused high street banks of deserting the Highlands after the Royal Bank of Scotland were the latest to announce a series of closures across the region.
Branches in Aviemore, Beauly, Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig will all shut by the summer – leaving some constituents more than 40 miles away from their nearest RBS.
Although in all cases there are alternative arrangements with the local Post Office as well as a visiting mobile bank, Kate Forbes MSP said she was deeply concerned what the closures will mean for rural communities across Scotland.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said: “RBS is just the latest bank to abandon the Highlands and forget the locally communities who depend on their services. These banks are deserting the Highlands.
“How are elderly and vulnerable customers supposed to access banking services, when they are expected to drive an hour from Mallaig to Fort William, or from Kyle to Portree? That is, of course, if the bus service is working perfectly.
“Banks face choices as to where they focus their activities and it is clear but the waves of closures across the Highlands that national banks are failing rural customers and businesses in the Highlands.
“It is not just exceptionally poor customer service for loyal customers who have been with that bank sometimes for decades. It is a dereliction of responsibility.”
Kate Forbes MSP added: “Many of us now use online banking, whether on the internet or by phone apps but the local branch is still very important for those who depend on physically visiting the local branch, such as elderly customers or businesses depositing cash.
“I have already spoken with senior representatives at RBS and I will further express my grave concerns about customers accessing banking services.
“I believe that it is critical that all these customers are still able to access core banking services locally, without having to travel elsewhere and I will keep constituents updated on progress to keep banking services local.
“I have been assured that there are local post office services in each of these locations which offer very similar services to the branch, and there will be an enhanced mobile bank.
“However, that is in the worst case scenario, because in advance of that my colleague Ian Blackford MP and I will be making clear that we do not want these branches to close.”