WITH a bustling harbour, an influx of summer visitors and a mix of independent shops, bars, restaurants and businesses, it seems bizarre that residents of Eyemouth have to travel to another country for their nearest bank.

Up until recently, the Berwickshire town boasted a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and a Bank of Scotland but with the latter closing last autumn, the nearest branches of both are in England in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Residents now complain that getting cash is a “nightmare” and feel let down by what SNP MP

Gavin Newlands – who is fighting bank closures in Renfrew and Bridge of Weir – has described as “corporate neglect”.

With more branch closures scheduled across the country this year, the difficulties experienced by people in Eyemouth seem likely to be repeated in many other towns.

They may not have to travel to England to access a branch but services supposed to mitigate the closures may be less than satisfactory, as Eyemouth residents have found.

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At the last count, only 404 bank branches remained open across Scotland, with 636 banks and building societies closing since 2015 – more than 60% in just nine years.

The process is being repeated all over the UK but Scotland has been hit particularly hard and was the first part of Britain to see more than half its banks close.

Last week, the Bank of Scotland announced it was shutting 10 more in Scotland, including its branches in Bridge of Weir and Renfrew. The issue was raised by Newlands in the UK Parliament last Thursday, pointing out that it would leave Renfrew entirely without a bank branch despite having a population of 25,000.

Speaking to the Sunday National afterwards, Newlands said the planned closures were another “shocking example of corporate neglect” and would create further barriers to accessing cash and financial services.

“It is unacceptable that there will be no direct in-person banking services from those whom we are paying to provide said services in so many of our communities across Scotland,” he said.

The National:

“It is well known that the removal of high-street branches aggravates the inequality of certain groups, such as people with disabilities, rural communities, senior citizens, small business owners and those on lower incomes.”

Newlands said banking groups had a responsibility towards communities to provide in-person services and alleviate barriers to access.

“It is time that banks are held accountable for their actions and that duty is placed on them to serve their customers and communities who keep them in business,” he said.

“The reality for so many now is that only a limited service through our much-cherished subpostmasters will be retained.

“I campaigned hard for subpostmasters to be properly remunerated before the last settlement with the banks and their – in many cases loss-making – fees were increased by around 300%. In so many cases, the Post Office is now the last bank in town and must be paid appropriately for that service.”

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Other closures announced by the Bank of Scotland last week will hit Banff, Buckie, Ellon, Lanark, Lesmahagow, Port Glasgow, Strathaven and Pollok in Glasgow.

The Bank of Scotland has also caused anger with plans to cease its mobile branch services in dozens of towns and villages across Scotland this year.

Among the areas affected are Aberdeenshire, Angus, Berwickshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Inverness, Moray, Perthshire, Stirlingshire and Sutherland.

Announcing the plan, the bank said 21 million of its customers were regularly using online banking but the mobile banks helped an average of just 14 customers during their routes.

Eyemouth is served by a mobile RBS van but it is only there for a couple of hours each week. A limited service run by the Bank of Scotland in the community centre does not handle cash, leaving residents with a steep hike to the post office at the top of the town or at the mercy of a free ATM at the seafront which is often empty and sometimes debits accounts without providing cash, according to pensioner Fiona Glover.

“Our issue is that local shops want cash because they are paying a fortune for their card-reading machines but when we go to the ATM, there is often no money,” she said.

The National: ATM

“It’s frequently empty – sometimes for nearly two days – and a number of people have had their card eaten or have not been given money but it has still come out their account.

“It is truly a nightmare and we are at the stage where people are genuinely afraid to use the machine because of the worry they could lose their money. It’s a terrible situation to be in in this day and age and the tourist season is coming up so there will be even more of a strain.

“It’s completely unsatisfactory.”

The free ATM is operated by Cashzone UK which was approached for comment.

A spokesperson for Lloyds Banking Group, which incorporates the Bank of Scotland, said: “In respect of accessing cash, the Post Office on the Industrial Estate in Eyemouth offers personal and business customers everyday banking services, including withdrawing and depositing cash, paying in cheques and more.

“In addition, we have a community banker visiting the town each week at the Eyemouth Community Centre, providing face-to-face services to customers, including making payments, account enquiries and online banking support.

“Customers can also manage their money through our mobile app, online or by calling us.”

Other planned closures in Scotland this year include Halifax and Barclays branches in Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Livingston and Perth.