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Public finance minister challenged on bank shortage in Highlands

Kate Forbes MSP
Kate Forbes MSP

The Scottish Government has been challenged over the lack of rural bank branches amid reports criminals are targeting businesses which have to store their own cash.

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes was questioned about the bank closures and was also told there are no ATMs between Ullapool and Thurso.

The declining number of banks was raised at Holyrood by Labour’s Rhoda Grant and Edward Mountain of the Tories.

Ms Grant asked Ms Forbes what was being done to protect businesses that were no longer able to bank their cash locally.

“Businesses that deal in cash are especially vulnerable, because there appears to be an increase in the number of break-ins,” Ms Grant said.

Ms Forbes said the Scottish Business Resilience Centre provided advice on crime prevention strategy.

She added work was being done with banks to help businesses with security.

The public finance minister went on to say she was in talks about the lack of ATMs in the north after Mr Mountain said there were none between Ullapool and Thurso.

Ms Forbes said: “I have been in discussions about that.

“I have had meetings with, for example, Link and the Payment Systems Regulator to look at how we can ensure that there is access to cash.

“Edward Mountain will be aware there is a strategy in place just now to look at preserving an ATM when there are no other ATMs within a certain parameter.

“However, far more work needs to be done and it is important to work across parties to put pressure on the regulator and the UK Government.”

Mr Mountain welcomed Ms Forbes’s pledge to work towards improving the situation.

The Highlands Tory MSP said the unavailability of cash “disadvantages” residents and tourists.

He added: “I will continue to press banks to ensure communities have the banking services they need and I will work with everyone to achieve that goal.”

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