FIFTEEN Bank of Scotland branches are to shut - a month after managing director Tara Foley said it was "committed to the branch network".

The Lloyds Banking Group has confirmed plans to shut 31 Lloyds, 15 Bank of Scotland and 10 Halifax branches between April and October 2020.

Ms Foley spoke in December about its support for the branch network while unveiling a new flagship outlet in Glasgow's Argyll Street which arrived against a backdrop of a stream of high street bank closures across the industry.

The branch was said to be a test-bed for future models and includes a mix of cashpoints for transactions in and out and advisors in different services such as mortgages and enterprise.

At the time, the bank said it was the biggest network of any bank in Scotland, with nearly 200 branches along with a mobile branch network serving over 100 locations.

Before the latest planned closures, it had shut 95 branches between 2014 and 2019. Ms Foley said in opening the Glasgow outlet: “Branches are not going anywhere.

READ MORE: Bank of Scotland chief says it is 'committed to branches' as it unveils flagship

“Yes, our customers are changing how they want to interact with us inside those branches but we still are committed to branch networks and we need branch networks because customers need them.”

It comes amidst an access to cash crisis in Scotland which has seen the number of free-to-use ATMs fall below the 5000 mark in Scotland for the first time.

And more than one-third of Scotland's bank branches have closed between January 2015 and August last year. Some 396 have vanished, leaving the nation with 643.

In June, former financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney told The Herald that Britain was “sleepwalking” into a cash-free society through a combination of bank branch closures and axed ATMs it is ill-prepared for, and millions of people will be left disadvantaged as a result.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor said the loss of more bank branches to an "already devastated" network will hit communities across the UK hard.

“If the industry wants to encourage people online then banks must demonstrate that their systems are up to scratch by drastically reducing the number of IT outages that customers endure - and also by equipping them with the skills needed to benefit from digital services," she said.

HeraldScotland:

"The government should urgently intervene with legislation that protects access to cash as a vital backup and for as long as it is needed.”

Which? research found that two in three people would find life difficult without convenient access to a branch, while 11 million people in the UK lack the confidence to carry out basic banking tasks online.

Lloyds Banking Group said the closures are part of a store reduction programme in response to changing customer behaviour and the move towards online banking.

A Lloyds Banking Group spokeswoman said: "We are committed to having the largest branch network in the UK and, in addition to our branches, all our customers can also use the Post Office to access their banking locally, alongside our mobile branches which visit many rural communities.

"We have confirmed that a number of branches will close between April and October this year.

"This is in response to changing customer behaviours and the reduced number of transactions being made in branches."

It comes as the bank continues its closure programme which affected Lloyds and Halifax sites in 2019.

The financial services union, Accord said it expected the banking group to avoid compulsory redundancies.

"We fully appreciate that the demand for high street branch banking is diminishing as customers increasingly move to app-based banking but we'll be examining Lloyds Banking Group's plans to ensure that they're properly thought through and robustly evidenced," said the union.

"So far, all branch closures have been managed without compulsory redundancies and Accord expects the same outcome here.

"We'll be contacting our members who are impacted by the closures to offer support and representation."

The Bank of Scotland branches planned for the axe are: Edinburgh Dalry Road, Edinburgh Greenside, Edinburgh Liberton, Edinburgh Tollcross, Galston, Loanhead,Tullos Aberdeen, Livingston, Grantown-on-Spey, Turriff, Huntly, Balfron, Kinross, Killin and Auchterarder.