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Virgin Bank branch closures a "severe disappointment"

Published on 30 September 2021 02:52 PM

Age Scotland, the national charity for older people has expressed their severe disappointment with Virgin Money, who announced the closure of 12 Scottish bank branches.

The closures will see many customers face “wild” distances to visit their nearest branch.

Customers who normally bank in Wick face a 200 mile return trip to Inverness which would take a whole day by public transport. The move from Portree on Skye to Fort William which is a 160 mile round trip could take over 3 hours one way by bus. People who use the Galashiels branch will need to travel to Edinburgh, and for those in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, a 35 mile round trip to Aberdeen awaits them.

Age Scotland’s recent Big Survey research highlighted that a third of over 50s don’t use a smartphone and only two thirds banked online, so hundreds of thousands of older people are left disadvantaged by the rapid retreat of banks from the high street.

Age Scotland’s head of policy, Adam Stachura said:

“This is yet another severe disappointment from Virgin Money and will have a significant impact on the financial independence of many of their customers. Just last year they took the decision to close or consolidate 11 of the Scottish branches they operate, including the Clydesdale, and now they bring down the shutters on 12 more.

“The rapid retreat of banks from our high streets and communities across Scotland is of huge concern and creates the real risk of large banking deserts opening up and growing even bigger. Of course the events over the last 18 months have changed the way in which people use branches, but as they have been harder and harder to access it is not surprising that footfall is dropping. It is a symptom of the decisions banks have been taking. It’s a short-sighted move and goes beyond just access to cash as branches play an important role in supporting people’s financial wellbeing and reduce the risk of scams.

“It is hugely frustrating that there seems to be little consideration from banks for the 500,000 over 60s in Scotland who do not have access to the internet and as such can’t access the digital alternatives or look after their finances independently. Our recent research showed that 33% of people over the age of 50 didn’t bank online and only two thirds of this age group use a smartphone.

“Some of the distances that people will need to travel to get to their nearest Virgin Bank branch are wild, with some round trips taking a full day. Older and disabled people are penalised the most by these closures and will find it more difficult to access their finances.

“While the Post Office network is an incredibly valuable resource, the banking services they can offer as an alternative are limited and the buck is being passed to them by banks who leave town. It’s time for some smarter thinking from the banks and they should seriously consider how they can better serve all of their customers. Getting behind shared banking hubs, such as in Cambuslang and Denny, would be a positive start so that customers and communities can continue to have access to the valuable face-to-face service that they need.”

-- Ends --

Notes to editors:

The affected Virgin Money branches are Airdrie, Banchory, Broughty Ferry, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Galashiels, Milngavie, Musselburgh, Oban, Portree, Stenhousemuir, and Wick.

Contact Age Scotland's media team:

Age Scotland provides a seven day a week response service to media enquiries through a dedicated telephone line and email.

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