RETAILERS should be legally mandated to accept cash to protect its availability, experts have suggested.

MPs heard that Scotland’s access to physical currency has plummeted over the last seven years, with 53 per cent of the country’s 1040 bank branches now closed.

In the same period, cash usage has fallen around 50%, with free-to-use ATM numbers also reducing drastically.

According to consumer watchdog Which? some people in more rural parts of Scotland now face a 200 mile round trip if they want to go to a bank, due to the extend and location of closures.

At a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee this afternoon, the watchdog’s head of campaigns Richard Piggin told MPs he was gravely concerned about bank branch closures, and recommended the government legislate to ensure the public have a legal right to access cash.

Witness Richard Cooper, the marketing chief of ATM firm Cardtronics suggested later that there should be a change in the law to make it illegal for shops not to accept cash.

Throughout the pandemic, some smaller retailers started declining cash payments altogether for fear that it was spreading Covid, with experts warning that this has only accelerated the country’s progression towards becoming completely cashless.

Mr Cooper explained: “Being able to spend cash is as important as being able to take cash out. I think the government should really be looking at enabling cash to be accepted in retailers as being a requirement for the future.”

However David Postings, chief executive at UK Finance, disagreed and said that he thought there was “robust” access to cash in Scotland right now.

He added: “There is there's no desire on the part of the banks to bring about the so-called cashless society. I think cash will be with us for a very long time to come, so we want to make sure that the provision is there.”

Asked directly if he believed there was a cash to make cash compulsory in shops, Mr Postings said: “No, I'm not sure compulsion ever really works for anything.

“I think the best thing to do is let the market decide. If a retailer doesn't accept cash, he or she is going to lose customers at the moment. I would suggest that's a choice they need to make, it’s market-driven.”