THE Bank of Scotland is being urged to minimise the impact of the controversial closure of two local branches.
Fortrose and Beauly are among seven Highland branches being shut with the loss of around 30 jobs.
The local MP Ian Blackford MP is pressing bank bosses to ensure that staff in the affected branches are offered positions at other branches in the network.
He is also calling for the retention of the cash dispensing machine in Fortrose and for the promised mobile banking service to be on a regular basis and extended to Rosemarkie.
Bank of Scotland in Fortrose is due to close on September 4, with the Beauly branch following suit two days later.
Bank of Scotland management state that counter activity at both branches had been under steady decline for some time, in the case of Fortrose to 81 per cent below the network average and Beauly 62 per cent.
Officials say that many people are now choosing internet banking rather than visiting a branch.
Mr Blackford said: “I raised several points with senior management at the bank, who must realise that these closures have wider implications for already fragile, rural economies where loss of jobs in the community can have a big impact. I have asked that every avenue be explored to retain staff affected by the closures.
“It is also the case that not everyone has access to the internet in these areas and many people may not have or even want to adopt internet banking for a number of reasons.
“While mobile banks are being introduced, I have asked how regular this service will be and if it will also be extended to Rosemarkie. Mobile banking also suffers from restrictions on the amount of cash that can be deposited and withdrawn in a single transaction, which could be limiting for businesses.
“Claiming that it is quite easy to get to branches in Inverness by bus or train may look fine on paper, but for many people this means a lot of time spent in travelling for a very short visit to the branch. Apart from this there is the added cost of fares or parking charges.
“I also fully support the local community council in their call for the retention of the ATM (automatic telling machine) in Fortrose High Street.
“While I understand the reasons behind the closures, everything possible should be done to minimise the impact. I will remain in contact with Bank of Scotland throughout the process to ensure the views of the local communities are known and addressed.”