LAST week whilst with friends from the small town where I grew up, the local banks closure had just been announced. I recalled being taken there by my mother, as a 17-year-old, to meet the manager and open an account as I prepared to head off to university.

It was my parents’ bank as it would become mine. When I graduated and was starting my own business it was to that bank that I went. It became my business as well as my personal bank. The manager was a kindly man who knew me and the family and took an interest in us all. He kept in touch and there was a feeling that he cared for us, as well as having a pride in the institution he worked for.

But, all that was to change. He retired and the bank became a satellite of a branch in a larger town nearby. No longer was it a bank manager but client account managers who were in contact. They didn’t seem to know or care. The only interest seemed to be my business overdraft despite the profits made from it and trying to sell products of which I had no desire.

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Time doesn’t stand still and that was brought home to my friends and I, as we perused photos of our once-youthful selves and remembered the town as it was. Change happens as the years pass and it’s just the same for retail banking as for us individuals and communities.

Like my friends, I moved away from the town. My account remained there, but more through inertia than loyalty. Other than using the ATM when visiting my old home town, I’ve not been near it in years. I’ve internet banking and use it or branches in the city where I now live.

My need to visit a bank is greatly reduced and I do most online – though, trying to pay in a cheque’s now a very complicated task even whilst living centrally in the capital city.

I suppose it’s partly because of people like me that banking is changing. I might moan, but can still manage. But it’s not that way for everyone – not just the vulnerable but vital small local businesses who remain the backbone of the community. It’ll be hard enough in that small central Scotland town, but the devastation in rural Scotland will be catastrophic.

So, whilst the logic for change is understood, the scale of the proposed closures most certainly isn’t. It’s also compounded by these institutions having been bailed out by the hard-earned taxes of the very communities they’re abandoning. That adds to the sense of shame that they should feel and it justifies steps forcing them to provide a semblance of a universal service in a diverse land.

Of course, shame doesn’t come naturally to the successors to that old stalwart banker I first met more than 40 years ago. He’ll be birling in his grave at what was done to his bank, never mind his town. Spivs and chancers turned solid national institutions into financial wrecks. Selling financial products and acquiring bonuses replaced supporting and sustaining communities and businesses. The supermen were in charge and we were all to bow down and worship them and mammon.

It was of course too good to be true. They crashed and burned at our expense. Anyone seeking an insight should watch The Inside Job, a film that shows how globally big banks robbed us all, deceiving pension funds yet paying themselves huge largesse. It wasn’t just us but the loyal staff who worked for them. Encouraged to take share options so they might have a little nest egg when they retired, they dutifully supported their employer. Enough, they hoped, to pay for the holiday they’d always dreamed off or the wedding their daughter sought. Instead their shares turned to dust and their dreams died with them. It wasn’t just individuals who suffered but charities that had proudly supported them. So-called blue chip shares sunk with the loss of the good deeds planned. Yet not only did they evade punishment, they showed no sense of shame. The bonuses continued as everyone else was affected by the austerity they’d caused.

And now this culling of branches across the land. It’s simply unacceptable. The Scottish Government can mitigate but Westminster must act. It’s they who have the powers and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous. These banks owe us and our communities. They cannot just walk away and yet pocket more bonuses.

If mobile phone operators must mast share, a universal service required from a privatised post office, then banks can be told to stand where they are and with the communities who stood with them. Between them a service can be provided, they owe us that.