Our new survey shows over 50 per cent of people in Scotland think ATMs are essential for day-to-day living. And closures may hit rural and island communities hardest. How will would it affect you?
Today, we published a story containing our latest research about the impact of potential closures of ATMs on Scottish communities. This was ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the subject, sponsored by Dean Lockhart, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, and which had gained cross-party support.
Our research found that nine in ten Scottish residents told us that free cash machines were important to their everyday lives – and of these, more than half (51%) described them as essential for day to day living. Almost two thirds (62%) said they use a cash machine once a week or more.
As you will know from previous convos on the subject, changes to the LINK network of ATMs threaten to cut off free access to cash for thousands of people across the UK. The decision to reduce fees for card machine operators – which could lead to closures of free-to-use ATMs across Britain – could also have a devastating impact on small businesses and rural communities in Scotland.
Communities cut off
So why might the situation be different in Scotland? People in Scotland face many of the same challenges as those in the rest of the UK with access to ATMs. But Scotland does have distinctive characteristics, such as the proportion of our consumers living in rural or island communities, with further to travel to their nearest source of cash.
Scottish communities have also already suffered greater impacts from closures of the bank branch network, and continue to suffer as alternatives to banking (such as mobile banking) are at threat.
In our survey, one in five in rural Scotland told us their nearest free-to-use cash machine was already too far away for them to walk to, compared to 3% in urban areas. For one in seven, it currently takes at least half an hour to reach their nearest cashpoint.
When we asked about the potential impacts of ATM closures, one fifth (22%) said they would be less likely to use local shops that require them to pay in cash, and one in seven (16%) said it would affect their ability to pay for products and services.
Dean Lockhart MSP said: “Demand for cash remains high, especially in rural and deprived communities and ATM facilities often act as a crucial replacement for the lack of banking services. Access to cash is absolutely vital to local growth in communities across Scotland and I urge the regulator to take action.”
In the debate, Dean spoke alongside many other MSPs from rural and urban parts of Scotland about the realities of losing bank branches, and the ‘double whammy’ of the potential ATM closures on top.
In response, the Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP committed to supporting the campaign, and had written to the Payment Systems Regulator and to the Economic Secretary to received assurances for those in communities that may be affected.
While payment services are reserved to Westminster, there is always a role for the Scottish Government and Parliament to stand up for Scots affected.
Which? are running a Save our Cashpoints campaign and our 76,000 people have signed our petition. If you haven’t already, you can sign it here.
Do you live in Scotland? How much will you be affected if your nearest ATM closes?