SCOTLAND is losing cash machines at a rate of more than 40 a month in Scotland raising new worries about how people access their money while the nation suffers a raft of bank branch closures.

New figures from LINK, the UK's largest cash machine network revealed to the Herald show that in November there were 6037 of their cashpoints in Scotland - 330 fewer than in March.

And the number of free to use cashpoints has also dropped by nearly 200 over the eight months to 5,198.

It comes after LINK announced that hundreds of communities in remote and deprived parts of Scotland were expected to be protected from losing their cash machines.

LINK announced a new ‘super premium’ fee will be paid by banks that they say will "significantly increase" payments to ATM operators where cash machines are situated in remote and less well-off parts of the country.

Santander last week announced it was shutting 15 Scottish bank branches - the latest it a raft of closures over the past few years.

HeraldScotland: Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

An analysis of the decline in cash machines in the parliamentary consitituencies of Scotland between July and November shows some rural areas and some of Scotland's most disadvantaged areas appear to continue to be hit.

The largely rural Dumfries and Galloway was the biggest loser in Scotland with nine of its 109 lost and semi-rural Aberdeen South and Argyll and Bute have both seen six go. Even Orkney and Shetland has lost one.

Edinburgh West, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath have lost seven each while one of the most deprived constituencies in the UK, Glasgow East has lost six of its 121 cashpoints.

LINK has said a cut in the number of cash machines has been necessary as transaction levels have dropped by around seven per cent in the past year as people move to using alternative payment methods such as contactless cards.

But there is concern over access to cash as it is estimated the UK has lost nearly two-thirds of its bank and building society branches over the past 30 years, from 20,583 in 1988 to 7,586 today. The loss of those sites has left nearly one in five of the population more than nearly two miles away from their nearest branch.

READ MORE: Move to give cash machines in Scotland legal protection as thousands face axe

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scotland policy chairman said: “We absolutely accept that more people are using non-cash payment methods. But that doesn’t mean that cash machines don’t remain important to local high streets.

HeraldScotland:

"Many of our retail members report that when a local cash machine is broken or out of order that this has a direct impact on their takings. Scotland has far poorer mobile coverage than other UK nations, and our local bank branches are closing at a far higher rate, therefore a declining cash machine network could have a disproportionate impact on our local economies and high streets."

In June, a Which? study found rural communities deemed to be the hardest hit in the UK.   Which? then raised concerns that it cast doubt on pledges made by Link to protect access to cash in rural areas.

The research based on LINK data showed that there was a net loss of 146 cashpoints in Scotland between November, 2017 and the end of March, 2018.

READ MORE: MSPs launch inquiry into bank closures across Scotland

Their research then appeared to contradict a statement made by LINK chairman Sir Mark Boleat to MSPs two weeks previously that the figure for open cash machines in Scotland "was probably the highest it has ever been" and that "there had been no reduction in number".

Taking effect from April 1, the premium of up to £2.75 will be made available to around 3,500 free-to-use cashpoints in the UK including 400 in Scotland.

Currently, operators of eligible ATMs in deprived areas receive a top-up subsidy through Link's financial inclusion programme, which allows a 30p increase in the fee paid in areas where there is only one within a one kilometre radius.

Adrian Roberts, deputy chief executive of LINK said: "We think there are now 6000 ATMs in Scotland overall, of which 5,200 are free to use and of those there are around 400 that may be eligible for these premiums because they are in a remote or less well off area.

"What LINK, which is a not-for-profit business has done is identified ATMs that are in remote areas, or in a financial inclusion area, a more deprived area, and it is protecting these ATMs.

"These ATMs were exempt from the reductions that have already taken place, but as well as exempting them, LINK is paying these premiums as well, which I think recognises the important service they provide to those communities.

"It also recognises the fact that transaction volumes are falling. Transactions are down six or seven percent compare to where they were a year ago. So these premiums are about ensuring that these particularly valuable ATMs continue to be commercially viable for the people who run them, to make sure they don't close or switch to surcharging.

"The money comes from the banks."

In June, a study by Which? found that bank branches had closed at a rate of two a week in Scotland over the previous four years.   

It estimated there are around 200 cash deserts in the UK - places where there is no access to either a branch or an ATM within a "reasonable distance" - and around two in three are in Scotland.