ALMOST 100 Scottish towns and cities have been hit by the closure of a local service due to big business and public-sector reorganisations, a survey has found.
The Post Office, Police Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HMRC and the Scottish Courts Service have either closed or plan to close services to the public, or shut local buildings, in Scottish towns and cities.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, which compiled the audit, is warning the closures will disrupt the efforts of small businesses, central and local government to turn around Scottish high streets and rejuvenate local economies.
The Herald this week launched a campaign to highlight key obstacles preventing the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector from boosting local economies, with town centres and local roads high on the agenda.
The FSB's audit puts together the recent or pending closures of 61 police counters, 29 HMRC inquiry centres, five Crown post offices, 17 sheriff and justice of the peace courts, 14 Clydesdale Bank branches, and 10 branches of RBS.
Of the 98 towns and cities, 20 are suffering more than one closure, including Paisley, Motherwell, East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Irvine, Bridge of Allan, Rothesay, Kirkcudbright and Haddington.
Of Scotland's 32 local authorities, 28 have towns affected. Borders has 11 towns with a closure, South Lanarkshire nine, and Highland and Fife seven each.
Colin Borland, the FSB's head of external affairs in Scotland, said: "Over the last few years we've seen large public and private bodies evaluate their operations and come to the same conclusion: they can no longer afford to operate at the same level in towns and high streets across Scotland.
"We are concerned about this trend and are encouraging those in charge to consider the cumulative impact of their decisions on local economies. We also fear colleges, the Ministry of Defence and other large organisations may be making decisions which will put their hometowns under additional pressure."
Mr Borland added: "The public servants tasked with turning our high streets around are being undermined by their colleagues in other bodies looking to rationalise their estate.
"Similarly, banks will not improve relations with small businesses by closing branches."
The Scottish Government said its Town Centre Action Plan "introduces a series of initiatives designed to support town centre business and to diversify and invigorate our town centres, including legislating for the introduction of discretionary rates relief schemes."
RBS closed 18 branches across the UK in February and 26 in March, according to the Unite union. Of the eight in Scotland, seven were the last branch in town - Bonnybridge, Castletown, Chirnside, East Linton, Greenlaw, Longniddry and Pathhead.
In March Clydesdale announced the closure of 14 "unsustainable" Scottish branches.
Last June, Holyrood's Justice Committee approved the closure of the 10 sheriff courts in Dornoch, Duns, Kirkcudbright, Peebles, Rothesay, Cupar, Dingwall, Arbroath, Haddington and Stonehaven, along with seven justice of the peace courts.
The Crown Post Office closure list includes East Kilbride, Stornoway and Cumbernauld, with Alloa and Perth converted to franchises.
HMRC has said fewer than 2 million customers visited its 281 enquiry centres UK-wide in 2013 and it is replacing them with a more flexible service.
Police Scotland last month ended public access to 61 of its 214 police stations, reprieving four after a consultation.