Published: 18/04/2017 10:10 - Updated: 18/04/2017 10:20

Scottish Lib Dem leader campaigns to save Highland banks

Written byEmma Crichton

Willie Rennie (centre) and supporters at the Bank of Scotland in Fortrose
Willie Rennie (centre) and supporters at the Bank of Scotland in Fortrose

A campaign to stop the closure of Highland banks has taken a step forward as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie travelled north to add his voice to the fight.

The decision to close seven Bank of Scotland branches in the region has been widely condemned and during a visit to Inverness and Ross-shire at the weekend, Mr Rennie called local banks "crucial" to rural communities.

Parent company Lloyds Banks has announced the closure of 100 branches, blaming decreased footfall and more people baking online.

Badenoch's only bank in Kingussie is set to close on September 12. 

On Saturday Mr Rennie attended the Fortrose bank, which has been earmarked for closure in September.

He said: "More than 1000 bank branches across the UK have closed in the last two years.

"While customers are increasingly shifting online, in rural parts of Scotland where internet coverage is more limited, local bank branches such as Kingussie, Beauly and Fortrose are crucial to communities.

"That’s why I am glad to see Liberal Democrat campaigners putting pressure on banks to understand the needs of local communities and ensure that people everywhere have easy and secure access to their money and the means to do business.

"We have a powerful track record of delivering for local communities across Scotland, working all year round, not just at election time."

Branches in Helmsdale, Lairg, Dornoch, Beauly, Bonar Bridge and Fortrose will also all close in September, within 10 days of each other.

The Highland Liberal Democrats have set up a petition to save the banks, which is available on their website.

During his visit, Mr Rennie spent time campaigning for support for his party in next month’s local government elections.

"Electing a Liberal Democrat councillor means a transformational investment in nurseries and schools, a step change in mental health services and the scrapping of the unfair council tax," he said.

"We believe in people and their potential, local decision making and support for local people."

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