Age Scotland: Shared branches solution to vanishing free ATMs and banks

Charity Age Scotland is reiterating its call for banks to invest in shared bank hubs to address Scotland’s growing bank desert crisis.

It follows a call this week for legally preserved free-to-use ATMs and bank branches from a powerful committee of MPs,

The UK Parliament’s Treasury Committee proposed a guarantee on the banks to ensure consumers and businesses have a right to access cash.

The ATM Industry Association reported that Scotland was the second most at risk area in the UK potentially losing out on 40 per cent of its free ATMs. Over the last year alone, 290 have closed across Scotland.

The association reported Glasgow’s concentration of free ATMs as one of the worst affected UK cities outside London.

This comes after an increasing number of bank branch closures across Scotland this year. TSB announced in March that 71 TSB Scottish bank branches will be reducing their opening hours while Santander is closing 15 Scottish branches.

Since 2010, one in three banks in Scotland have closed making it harder for older people to access their money. The national charity for older people, Age Scotland, has been campaigning for more innovative methods to deal with the increasing bank closures affecting communities and older people across the country such as shared bank hubs – a move which is backed by politicians in the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive said: “This is a promising first step from the UK Parliament and shows that they’re listening to the concerns that a cashless society and banking deserts have on people who are older, disabled, those living in rural communities and businesses.

“Older people have been telling us that bank branches are important to them and the continuous closures are having a significant impact on how they manage their finances. They prefer having a face-to-face conversation with a real person and for half a million people in Scotland over the age of 60 who do not have access to the internet, digital solutions aren’t a feasible option.

“It is a scandal that there is only one bank branch left in the whole county of Sutherland.

“As older people are more likely to be targeted by scams, they’re less likely to go online or use the phone for banking. They shouldn’t be discriminated for a choice that protects their safety.

“We understand that there are financial reasons for closing some branches but urge banks to look at shared banking hub options especially in rural areas and suburbs to engage with their older clients rather than isolate them. This method is currently piloted in Birmingham with a shared business bank hub for NatWest, Lloyds Bank and Barclays after the banks listened to their business customers’ needs so it shows that its possible if the will is there.

“This option should be available to all of Scotland’s personal banking customers but it would particularly benefit rural communities, older people with mobility restrictions, those living with dementia, hearing or visual impairments.”