Wigtown and District Community Council Convenor Matt Kitson said: “This is another blow to the community of Wigtown, following on from the reduction of library, bus and GP services. Regrettably services are continuing to be removed from rural communities, making it more difficult for people to access those facilities that those in Edinburgh take for granted. “Whilst online banking and cashless payments have impacted branch footfall, internet and mobile access has not kept pace. Rural access to fibre optic high speed internet and 4G mobile services are not guaranteed in all parts of our region. Many businesses will struggle to replicate the level of service that they enjoy currently and incur additional administration and time costs. Whilst the branch will be replaced with a mobile service no indication in the statement from Bank of Scotland has been given about how frequently it will visit and the opening hours.
“We are also concerned that mobile banking vehicles are not accessible for disabled people and for those who have difficulty with steps. Similar mobile banking vehicles have been criticised for serving disabled people in the street. The Community Council will discuss the closure at our next meeting on Monday 10th April and will be writing to the Bank of Scotland to remonstrate our concerns over the decision that they have taken.”
Port William CC spokesperson Anne Highman added: “This will affect a lot of us in the village, especially the shops. We are not all able to go online, or want to.”
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said “The stream of closures announced almost every week now by the major banks is clearly showing no sign of stopping. At this rate having a bank branch on our High Street out with the large towns and cities will soon become a thing of the past. This is bad news for the loyal customers who still want to use their local branch but who in many cases will struggle to find one within any reasonable travel distance. But it is particularly devastating news for staff who face losing their jobs. As bank after bank closes, the options they have to find a new job in the banking sector diminish. We are also seeing yet more buildings, often older ones that have been banks for many years closing, blighting our High Streets.”
Galloway MSP Finlay Carson MSP commented: “This is another massive blow for the people of Galloway and West Dumfries. Bank branches are a vital fixture on any high street and the massive decline in the number of branches in the area will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the local economy.
“I have today written to the Bank of Scotland to raise my concerns and ask for the evidence that suggests that all 5 branches need to be closed; I am a firm believer that to keep our region prosperous, local people need local services, and I will continue to promote this in every way I can.”
Meanwhile down at Westminster, Galloway MP Richard Arkless added: “This announcement by the Bank of Scotland brings the total number of proposed bank branch closures throughout my constituency of Dumfries and Galloway since the beginning of the year, to eight.
“That’s eight individual communities damaged through losing an important service facility. Eight teams of experienced bank staff facing redundancy. Many of these staff members will have dedicated their working lives to the bank and it is vital that everything that can be done to support them is being done. I will be writing to the bank to object to these closure and suggest they have been premature in closing them. I have also asked what steps they are taking to mitigate the harm these closures will have on their staff, if they do indeed go ahead.
“Taken separately, each branch closure has a devastating effect on each rural town centre but when you look at this issue as a region wide event the impact becomes even more serious.
“Dumfries and Galloway is a vast region with an ageing population. It is simply not reasonable to expect elderly and vulnerable people to travel miles to access banking services. These closures will see Bank of Scotland customers in Port William being expected to travel over 16 miles to their nearest branch in Newton Stewart, for customers in Dalry it is just as bad as they will now have to travel 15 miles to Castle Douglas. It is quite simply, unacceptable.
“Banks are telling us that online mobile transactions have increased ten fold whilst branch transactions had fallen by 20%. Whilst that it is a substantial drop, it is not significant enough to close the branch. Banks should be re-looking at the way the do things to make their branches more viable – they shouldn’t simply be closing them without exploring other options.
“I have written to all three banks and demanded a meeting with them all at the table - the Clydesdale, RBS and The Bank of Scotland talk about ‘legacy’ programs to help lessen the impact of the branch closures. I propose that instead of each bank doing their own small thing, they put all the legacy money together and work with each other to make a substantive difference to the communities that are losing their branch. These legacies should be meaningful and could be a mix of mobile banks to reach elderly and rural customers - and of course better mobile signals so others can move to online banking. It is ironic that rural branches are closed in areas with poor internet because of a rise in online transactions.
“It’s simply not good enough for the banks to shut up shop and leave their customers to sort out access to online services themselves. Banks have a duty and a responsibility to the communities they are leaving to make sure that online access is possible.”