14 December 2017
I congratulate Kate Forbes on securing the debate.
These closures will have a devastating impact on all of Scotland but especially on the Highlands and Islands, where 13 branches will close.
The justification for the closures is cynical.
We have the worst broadband in Scotland—indeed in the UK—and therefore the ability to bank online is a distant dream rather than a reality.
Possibly the worst of the proposals is the closure of the branch in Castlebay.
It means that people will have more than 20 miles to drive and a ferry to catch just to get to the bank, and then they need to try to get back home again.
That will probably mean that it will take the best part of a day to access the bank, not to mention the added costs.
Added to that, it is a place where my constituents have had some of the worst problems with accessing broadband.
What of elderly people who cannot make the ferry journey to get their pension?
While we rightly concentrate on service provision, we must not forget the staff who work at the branches.
They are losing their jobs, because the distance that they would have to travel to an alternative branch will make relocation impossible.
Neither do they have a hope of gaining a similar job, because such jobs are few and far between in rural communities.
The closures are being directed by the banks that we bailed out.
The people who are making the decisions owe their own jobs to the communities that they are now riding roughshod over.
It has to stop.
The Westminster Government must intervene on behalf of us, the shareholders.
These banks belong to the people and they must make the people their priority.