ATM Closures — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 am on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 10:23 am, 4th December 2018

I thank Ged Killen for bringing this important debate, and for the work he has done on this issue. I am pleased to participate in this debate on the important issue of our constituents’ access to their own cash free of charge and, ultimately, the issue of social and financial inclusion.

We have heard that 2.2 million people across the United Kingdom are entirely reliant on cash, as opposed to credit or debit cards. It must be correct that we should all be able to access our own cash without incurring any charges. The fact is, those who are reliant on cash transactions tend to be less well-off and are the least able to pay any additional cost to access what little cash they have.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, earlier this year LINK, the UK’s largest cash-machine network, announced that it would go ahead with plans to cut its interchange fee by 20% over the next five years. As a result, we have seen hundreds of ATMs closing. Scotland has been hit hard, with 221 free cash machines lost between January and July 2018—around one every day. There are now fewer than 6,000 free cash machines left in Scotland. That sits uncomfortably alongside bank branch closures, as Jim Shannon pointed out, with banks closing at a rate of 60 each month, leaving significant towns in my constituency—such as West Kilbride, Dalry, Brethe, Stevenston, Ardrossan, Kilwinning—with no bank at all thanks to RBS closures. The communities affected will never forgive RBS for this abandonment and betrayal. I believe that RBS will never again be trusted, nor will it have its reputation repaired. It is still disappointing that the UK Government did not intervene and use what influence they had in that matter.

We have also heard that post office closures, stretching back to 2007 and 2008, have compounded the issue, as Yvonne Fovargue pointed out. As the hon. Member for Strangford said, we have the additional problem of postmasters not being replaced; so the issue is snowballing.

I fairly enjoyed Douglas Ross doing his impersonation of a trapeze artist when he tried to blame—if I heard him correctly—the shortage of ATMs and the impact on small businesses on the Scottish Government. He will be well aware, I am sure, that thousands of businesses in Scotland have benefited from the small business bonus. I think anybody in Westminster Hall would agree, looking at the evidence, that the major issue facing small businesses is the concern and uncertainty caused by Brexit. We will just leave that there.