A VILLAGE has been left with little access to cash after its only bank cut its hours.

Community leaders had made unsuccessful last-ditch pleas to the Bank of Scotland to axe its plans to slash the opening times of the branch at Bonar Bridge in Sutherland.

It is now closed on Fridays and times have been cut from 13 hours to five on a Tuesday.

The bank does not have an ATM and the village’s only machine is in the Kyle Bakery on the main street.

The nearest branch with an ATM is Lairg – 11 miles away – but this opens only on Monday and Thursday, meaning residents will have to travel a 30-mile round trip to Dornoch or Tain to conduct business face-to-face on a Wednesday and Friday.

Creich Community Council and local MP Paul Monaghan had appealed for a last-minute change of heart. In a letter to the Lloyds Banking Group – the parent of the Bank of Scotland – the community council’s Russell Smith accused it of being “illogical and contradictory”, adding “you cannot give us what we want by taking away what we want.”

“You state that you ‘will deliver improved service and value to our customers’ – perhaps you can explain how reducing opening from two days a week to one day and reducing the opening hours can be construed as delivering an improved service?”, he wrote.

“You also state that you will improve service and value ‘to our customers by helping them bank with us whenever, however and in whatever way they want’.”

He adds that the local community wants to be able to bank in person at the local branch at least twice a week and he brands the decision illogical.

He adds: “I would be grateful if you could let us know what efforts you did make to consult customers and what discussions you had with local staff in advance of your decision to drastically reduce the service you provide to us.”

There are fears that older and disabled people, and those on low incomes, will feel the brunt of the reduced hours, and that local businesses will also suffer if tourists go elsewhere to bank.

Bank of Scotland said it was reducing the hours due to lower demand in line with the changing customer behaviour to online banking services.

Changes will not result in any redundancies and staff will be redeployed to busier branches if needed.

“Should the branch at Bonar Bridge see an increase in customer footfall or a change in the pattern of its usage, this will of course be taken into account in future decision-making processes,” said a spokesman.

Campaigner Michael Baird, of Bonar Bridge, said: “Not everyone has internet access. Not everyone has a computer. Not everyone has a car to travel anything from 20-50 miles round trip to bank elsewhere.

“You cannot put money into a computer and you cannot take money out of a computer.”