A SCOTTISH Conservative MP is calling for legislation to be introduced to prevent the country “sleepwalking in to a cashless society”.

David Mundell, the former Scottish Secretary, is holding a debate in Parliament tomorrow on the dwindling use of cash and availability of cash machines, which he said could create “disastrous consequences” for thousands of people.

Mr Mundell, the MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said that there had been a “totally false perception that cash has not been safe to use during the pandemic” and worried that some retailers were using the crisis as an excuse to go completely cashless.

He said he was concerned that we are “sleepwalking quickly into a cashless society in a totally unmanaged and unprepared way with potentially disastrous consequences for millions of people across the UK.”

He explained: “In my experience, the importance of cash to those who rely on it has increased during the pandemic. Cash has been the means by which local communities have supported themselves, with neighbours, friends and family buying essentials for one another.

“There is also a totally false perception that cash has not been safe to use during the pandemic, but in my view, some have seized on this as an excuse to go cashless.

“The Government now has a major role to play in making it absolutely clear that it expects that people should be able to use cash in routine transactions.

“If it is not possible to do this with retailers and other service providers on a voluntary basis then legislation should be considered, at least for a fixed period, to allow those least able to manage without cash, to be supported in transitioning to a cashless economy.”

A Which? survey recently found that of those who had problems paying in cash, 40 per cent of them left empty-handed when trying to buy groceries, and 20 per cent could not buy medicines.

Mr Mundell will also highlight the ability to access and deposit cash has become increasingly difficult with bank branch closures and the decline of free cash machines.

He added: “When I have previously raised his issue, ability access to cash, and the costs of doing so was the primary concern, along with the need for small businesses, charities and local organisations to be able to easily deposit cash, but now the immediate focus has to be cash acceptance.

“There is no point accessing cash if you cannot use it, yet cash is increasingly refused.

“We know that some seventeen percent, or eight million adults in the UK, would struggle in a cashless society and those struggling the most would be the elderly, the socially vulnerable, the economically excluded and those in rural communities like my Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale Constituency.

“Shockingly, the National Audit Office’s recent report on cash found a fragmented system of oversight. “Coherence and coordination is urgently needed, along with clear and robust messaging from the Government on the importance of being able to use cash, at least for the time being.”