I was going to close by assuring Sandra White that I would raise the specific concerns of her constituents directly with the Bank of Scotland. The point that she just made is valid. I can quote statistics that show the general impact of closures, but for people who are dependent on the presence of a physical branch to access cash and who depend on being able to pay in money there, to receive benefits such as universal credit or to do other things, their whole lives are being impacted on. I happily give the assurance that I will raise directly with the banks the concerns of Sandra White’s constituents and the more general social impacts of branch closures, because that impact cannot go unnoticed.
Just today, I spoke to a number of individuals, including representatives from Age UK, about how we might increase digital participation among the older generation, and I was told that 37 per cent of individuals over the age of 60 do not use the internet. If they are not online, that means that they are entirely excluded from locally accessible free-to-use banking services, which is a massive problem.
While recognising that the regulatory and legislative frameworks are not the Scottish Government’s, I commit to continuing to raise such issues directly with the banks and the UK Government to try to get banks to realise the social impact—not just the commercial impact—of their decisions. The banks are accountable to their customers, who will vote with their feet if their concerns and interests are not taken into account.
Meeting closed at 17:53.