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Bank of Scotland pulling plug on mobile branch in Black Isle community of Fortrose and Beauly

By Hector MacKenzie

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Bank of Scotland mobile banking in Beauly Square. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Bank of Scotland mobile banking in Beauly Square. Picture: Gary Anthony.

A MAJOR banker is set to pull the plug on mobile services to a number of Highland communities – amongst them Fortrose and Beauly.

The pull out in both communities is scheduled to take place in May next year.

The Bank of Scotland said: "We’ve been looking at how customers are using our Mobile Branches. Many are using them less and choosing other ways to bank instead.

"Because of this we’ve made the decision to end this service. This includes all the stops on this route."

It said: "We’re still here to support you and there’s a number of ways you can do your everyday banking with us – online, on your mobile, over the phone or at a Post Office. You can also use a branch."

The last stop at Fortrose – at the medical practice on Station Road – will be on May 13, 2024.

The last visit to Beauly, at The Priory Hotel in The Square, will be on May 29.

Explaining its decision, it said:"We complete a detailed impact analysis which includes:

■ How customers are choosing to bank with us

■ How often customers use the Mobile Branch and how that usage is changing

■ Current services available in the mobile branch and the mobile branch opening hours

■ Assessment and check of alternative ways to bank including their proximity and accessibility – this is confirmed by a visit assessment of public transport, availability and frequency

■ Assessment of Broadband availability

■ Impact on our customers including those who are vulnerable or may need additional support.

It has been a bruising few years for bank customers who prefer visiting physical branches with a string of closures, the banks citing changing trends and a move towards online services.

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However politicians have regularly warned the closures are effectively leaving some customers stranded.

The bank says that only 19 regular customers have used the mobile branch on the route in the six months to July.

It has published the rationale for its decision and alternative methods of banking.

That can be found here.

MP Jamie Stone, Far North MP, said: "This is very disappointing. There has been absolutely no warning of this change.

"It was not very long ago when Bank of Scotland had television ads showing mobile banks driving through beautiful Highland scenery, extolling the virtues of their services.

"It's all very well saying that the demand has fallen but remote communities such as Helmsdale, Lairg and others in my constituency have come to rely on this service, particularly the elderly for whom online banking is not really possible.

"It's only a few years ago that the UK Government stepped in to pay out the banks. I feel that this development goes against any notion of public service, especially for the elderly and those living in the remotest areas. I shall be raising it at the earliest opportunity in the House of Commons."

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: "These closures reflect a worrying trend which has seen a downgrading or removal of important rural services, one which risks driving people away from our rural and more remote communities.

"As the closure of bank branches have already had, the loss of mobile bank services will have further far-reaching impacts on small communities, damaging not only the accessibility of essential banking services but also severing a vital link that connects older and more vulnerable members with the wider community.

"Banks must consider the significant challenges that many of our older citizens, and others who may not be familiar with the complexities of the internet, will now encounter in being left to manage their financial affairs without access to even a mobile service.

“Before these decisions are taken and services are cut, we need to see proper dialogue and consultation between the banking sector and local communities on how to deliver a service which meets communities needs.

“At the moment, decisions seem to seem to be prioritising the savings banks can make over the impact their cuts have on residents and local businesses”.

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