Individuals, businesses and community groups in and around 14 communities in the Highlands and Islands have an extra two weeks to take part in an online survey on rural banking services.
Among other things, the survey asks about the importance of being able to withdraw and deposit cash locally, experiences of using Post Office and mobile banking services, and the perceived impacts of local branch closures.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) commissioned Indigo House Group to carry out the work as part of a wider study into the social and economic importance of access to local banks.
The survey opened on 19 March and has been gathering feedback, particularly in areas where local banks are expected to close. More than 400 responses have already been submitted. To give time for more responses, HIE has extended the initial survey closing date to Friday 27 April.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s director of regional development, said: “The survey has attracted a great deal of attention and we have received many responses. However, we recognise many people interested in completing the survey may not have had time to do so due to the Easter break.
“It is important for us to fully understand, from those directly affected, how important rural banking services are, and to look at how else these services might be provided, particularly in the context of rural branch closures. We are therefore keeping the survey open for a further two weeks until April 27.
“The findings of this study will help inform how we and our partners go about helping communities achieve their ambitions for growth and resilience.”
In addition to the online survey, the wider banking study will learn from other areas that have already experienced bank closures in Scotland and wider in the UK. It will examine the impact of these closures, and seek to identify alternatives for local banking services.
With a unique remit for community development, HIE recognises the vulnerabilities of rural communities and the importance of equitable access to services. Increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality are also key to Scotland’s Economic Strategy.
The online survey is particularly targeted at communities in Tongue, Wick, Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig, Aviemore, Grantown on Spey, Nairn, Inverness, Beauly, Tain, Rothesay, Campbeltown, Inveraray, and Castlebay.
It can be accessed at www.hie.co.uk/access-to-banking-services-research. Hard copies of the survey are also available.