A PLEDGE by the overseers of the UK's largest cash machine network to guarantee free access to cash on every Scottish high street is at risk - because demand is outstripping the cash available.

LINK, the overseers of the UK's largest cash machine network admit that they already having to scrap plans for some free ATMs because of problems in finding sites for new cash machines.

So far two cash machines have been installed in Scottish communities since the pledge was made over five months ago.

Concerns about Scotland's access to cash have come as figures show that Scotland has lost nearly 500 cash machines in the last two years - while the number of pay to use ATMs has soared by nearly 70% in the past year alone.

Details seen by the Herald reveal that while LINK have now got an extra £3m to spend on the free ATMs from the industry, it is only enough to install around 160 across the whole of the UK. There have been over 2700 requests since the pledge was made.

With one in ten requests across the UK coming from north of the border, it would mean that as it stands there is funding for just 16 free ATMs in Scotland.  Yet to date there have been 300 requests in Scotland alone for free-to-use ATMs.


LINK pledged in August that should a high street be threatened with the loss of an ATM or Post Office, it will step in to ensure that a cash machine is made available and paid for with funding from all the UK’s main banks and building societies.

The north-west Highlands village of Durness, where locals have to drive for an hour to get to their nearest free ATM, has received one as part of the pledge.

And earlier this month Gartcosh got their free to use cash machine as part of LINK's initiative to restore free cash access.

But with ATM installations costing between £20,000 and £30,000 each, it is feared that the £3m extra for the fund from banks is nowhere near enough.

Citizens Advice Scotland spokesman Myles Fitt said: “We welcome the intention of LINK to ensure High Streets across the country have a free-to-use ATM and we are disappointed that many communities in Scotland will not see any benefit from this.

READ MORE: The free cash machine scandal: how ATM loss is affecting your area

"Such ATMs are crucial for consumers in rural areas where the nearest ATM may be many miles away, and for those who need to use cash as a means of managing their finances, such as people on low incomes or in debt. We hope LINK will re-double their efforts to make good their promise of cash machine coverage across the country.”

Since August there been seven free-to-use ATMs opened across the UK with nine expected to come online in the coming weeks. But there were nearly 1000 free-to-use ATMs closed between September and October this year.

LINK said around a quarter of the Scottish requests have already been ruled out because there was either already a usable free-to-use cash machine nearby, the area already had post office coverage or there was nowhere to put an ATM.

A LINK source said: "It is done on need. If we believe an area needs an ATM, we will put one in, but as long as we can find the site."

Which? the consumer organisation has previously warned that the LINK move on its own could not resolve the access to cash problem.


Last month, the Herald revealed that one in four of Scotland's cash machines were now charging customers to take their money with the number soaring by 68% in just one year.

According to LINK data, there were 1396 pay to use ATMS in Scotland at the end of last year - 565 more that the previous year.

It led to fresh demands for action to preserve the nation’s access to cash, as bank branches vanish.

On top of that, the rate of loss of free-to-use cash machines in Scotland rose to 14 every week in the year. That’s up from one in ten in the year to July.

There were 4470 non-charging ATMs at the end of November - with 743 disappearing in a year.

Scotland has already seen over 400 bank branches close since 2015, making it one of the worst affected areas in the UK, and often the cashpoints will also go.

READ MORE: LINK issues free access to high street cash pledge - with Durness first

Banks who have made the cuts consistently say that it is the result of customers preferring to use online, mobile or telephone banking while usage of branches has fallen.

LINK, which has 38 member institutions, of which many are various banks and building societies, made its access to cash pledge in response is to the "rapid and unprecedented decline" in cash usage by British consumers.

It announced in August that it would protect free access to in every UK high street with Durness the first to benefit as part of a new pilot.

The free access to cash pledge meant that there should be a "free ATM or Post Office counter within one kilometre of the midpoint of any retail centre - which have five or more shops".

It said it would ensure that, as the UK continues to evolve from a high-cash economy to one where most payments are made digitally, ATMs, "which remain a vital part of the UK’s cash infrastructure", are protected.

READ MORE: Banks must pledge to keep a branch in every town or face legislation, say Scottish MPs

LINK chief executive John Howells said when making the pledge: “LINK is determined to defend free access to cash across the UK in the face of very rapidly declining cash use. LINK will take further steps to ensure that the free ATM footprint is safe in Scotland and extend its commitment to cover every high street."

Fulton MacGregor, the Coatbridge and Chryston MSP said: ‘I’m delighted that Gartcosh will now have a free cash machine. As a thriving and distinct community it’s important that people can access their own money free of charge. I’m pleased that Link have responded to calls from myself and the community and found a solution to this issue."