Analysis: TSB closures are a further blow for Scottish communities
When TSB announced plans to shut 17 Scottish branches a year ago, the writing was on the wall for the bank’s loyal Scottish customers, who were already bracing themselves for further cutbacks.
Just a few months earlier, it had already announced that 71 of its branches in Scotland and 22 in England would open for only two or three days a week, restricting access for many people.
Today’s announcement that the now-Spanish-owned bank will close another 73 bank branches comes as another blow for consumers and business owners, particularly those in Scotland’s rural communities, who are often forced to travel miles to access banking services. Looking atv the list of proposed closures, many of them are in small towns: Pitlochry, Nairn, Kelso.
Even more worryingly for Scotland’s isolated communities, TSB is not the only financial institution to close its doors north of the border.
In fact, a report published a year ago by consumer group Which? found that Scotland had lost 38 per cent of its bank branch network over the previous five years. Some branches, Which? found, open only one day a week in Scotland, while others are available for just two days.
Native Scottish banks, which were previously the mainstays of rural high streets, have also closed down, with RBS shuttering 63 per cent of its Scottish network since 2014. In the same period, Bank of Scotland closed 94 branches, equivalent to 32 per cent of its network, followed by Clydesdale, which closed 47 per cent.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak has accelerated closures and left many communities in a state of uncertainty, with many banks having been shuttered completely since the beginning of the pandemic.
Banks have argued that it is not financially viable for them to stay open. TSB today cited a “significant change in customer behaviour” that has driven the decision, as more people adopt digital banking.
Yet for those not easily able to access online banking - or for small businesses which want to process cash - the decision makes life difficult. FSB Scotland described today’s announcement as “another body blow” for the Scottish towns and local economies that will be losing more jobs, services and footfall.
Age Scotland warned that increasing branch closures leave older and vulnerable customers - who may not be able to undertake a long round trip to visit another bank - without access to services.
According to the most recent Scottish Household Survey, 34 per cent of people in Scotland – half a million people - over 60 do not use the internet, rising to 49 per cent in the most deprived areas.
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “The disappearance of almost half TSB’s Scottish branches will inevitably lead to banking deserts and make it harder for customers to manage their money. The relentless push towards online or telephone banking may be convenient for many, but it doesn’t suit everyone.”
He said it was “understandable” that footfall fell during the pandemic.
"But that doesn’t mean that the longer-term demand isn’t there. Now it looks like many branches that TSB temporarily closed will never reopen their doors.”
While some banks, including TSB - which said today that 50 mobile advisers will be introduced in rural communities - have pledged to invest in mobile banking services, many plans have been hampered by the coronavirus outbreak.