Consumer watchdog Which? is calling on the UK Government to appoint a regulator to protect access to cash for consumers across the country.
Despite the increasing popularity of digital and card payments, having access to cash is still a necessity for more than 25 million people across the UK.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of the UK population still uses cash frequently to pay for goods and services, according to a survey conducted by Populus on behalf of Which?
A combination of branch and cashpoint closures, Which? said, risks leaving people struggling to pay for essential goods across Scotland. Nearly 400 bank branches have closed in Scotland since 2015, making it one of the worst affected areas in the UK.
Similarly, 290 cashpoints have been closed in the past year in Scotland, the majority of which were free-to-use machines.
The watchdog said that while this does not appear to be a large number of closures compared to the rest of the UK, these have a far greater impact in Scotland due to its many rural communities.
More than 250 free-to-use cashpoints close every month across the UK.
Which? said it is concerned that the “double blow” of cashpoint and bank closures is leaving rural communities struggling to access the cash they rely on.
Jenni Allen, Managing Director at Which? Money, commented: “We have serious concerns that the alarming rate of cashpoint and bank branch closures risks leaving people in Scotland facing an uphill battle to access the cash they rely on.
“Cash is also a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity – so the UK Government must appoint.”
Efforts to monitor consumer behaviour on the use of cash must be improved, Which? also recommended. Link data on cashpoint withdrawals suggest that some parts of the UK are making the move away from cash more quickly than others.
In London and the South East, cash withdrawals fell by 8.5& and 7.7% respectively throughout 2017 and 2018. In Scotland, however, the move away from cash was far slower, with a decrease of just 3.3%.