This week, we took our ‘Freedom to Pay. Our Way’ campaign directly to Westminster and shone a light on the problems people in Scotland face when accessing their everyday finances.
As we transition towards an increasingly digital society, our ‘Freedom to Pay. Our Way’ campaign aims to make sure that nobody gets left behind.
Because of this, I was invited to give evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee, a group of MPs made up from a range of political parties who investigate issues affecting Scotland and who are currently conducting an inquiry looking at Access to Financial Services.
Scottish bank branches and cashpoints
We know that the way people pay for goods and services is continually changing, and we want to ensure that people across the UK can use whatever method of payment suits their needs.
As such, we shared with the Committee our research, which found that within the last three months, three in five Scottish consumers had experienced an occasion where the only option available to them was to pay in cash.
Thanks to Sheena Boyd @scoruralaction , James Daley of Access to Cash Review, Caroline Normand @WhichUK and Derek Young @CitAdviceScot for coming today and discussing access to cash services in #scotland with us.
Watch back here: https://t.co/NHE0J45pan#BankClosures #ATMClosures pic.twitter.com/ovOpd3If66
— Scottish Affairs Committee (@CommonsScotAffs) March 26, 2019
When you bear in mind that at least 399 bank branches in Scotland have shut since 2015, and that 290 cashpoints were lost between January 2018 and December 2018, including 204 which were free to use, then you can start to see the problem people in Scotland face on a daily basis.
Without access to banks and cashpoints, online banking and card payments become the main options available. Yet, in Scotland, almost 2 million adults do not use online banking services, with poor broadband identified as a key reason.
The Which? speed checker found that Scotland still has some of Britain’s slowest average connection speeds. The areas with the lowest speeds recorded in Scotland were the Orkney Islands (3Mbps), Shetland Islands (6.7Mbps), Argyll and Bute (7Mbps), and Moray (7.1Mbps).
Sharing your stories
More than 1,400 people living in Scotland responded to our call for them to share their stories with us in advance of the committee hearing to inform our response.
Debbie told us:
“I manage a small convenience store and petrol station which also has a Post Office in the northern Highlands. Through our post office we offer a lot of banking opportunities for customers wishing to deposit and withdraw cash.
Many of our customers choose to pay with cash for their shopping. There are numerous reasons for this. Some find cash easier to use when budgeting and keeping track of their finances, while others don’t own a computer or a smart phone so making digital payments and managing their finances in this way is much harder.
There have been times when our unreliable internet connection has meant we haven’t been able to accept card payments. On these occasions we’ve had to ask our customers to withdraw cash from the Post Office and use that to pay for their products or fuel”
We shared this story, and many others, with the committee this week. Thank you to everyone who took the time to contact us.
Action is needed now if we are to ensure that people across the UK have the freedom to pay for goods and services their own way.
To enable this the UK Government must give a single regulator the statutory duty to protect people’s access to cash and to build a sustainable cash infrastructure for the UK.
You can help us tackle this issue across the UK by supporting our campaign. We’ll keep you updated on our progress and, if you want to get involved or share a story, please let us know here on Which? Conversation.