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Government acknowledges importance of cash for millions, but confirms no new steps to improve access or monitor cash acceptance levels across the UK

19 October 2022

In its response to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report, Access to cash in Scotland, the UK Government acknowledges the importance of cash transactions for millions, but has rejected recommendations to help half a million Scots in accessing and spending their cash.

 

The Post Office has recently confirmed that its branches handled the highest volume of cash in August for five years, thought to be caused by rising living costs and more relying on cash for budgeting reasons. Yet despite the resurgence of cash usage on the high street, since 2015 53% of Scotland’s bank branches have closed, making accessing cash increasingly difficult. Cash usage levels within retail have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, when retailers were encouraging customers to use contactless means of payment.

 

As such, the Committee recommended that the Government approach the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate and monitor cash acceptance levels across the UK before considering what further action or protections are required. The Government responded, stating that it is for individuals and businesses to choose whether or not they accept cash. Further, it remains unclear how Government legislation, through the Financial Services and Markets Bill, will interact with industry initiatives to safeguard access to cash, such as LINK’s Financial Inclusion Programme.

Chair's comment

Scottish Affairs Committee Chair, Pete Wishart MP, said:

 

“The Government is sitting idly by as bank branches have sped up closures to dodge any meaningful protections on accessing cash. With the cost of living crisis likely to get worse as we approach the winter and rising energy bills, more people are likely to be relying on accessing cash for budgeting purposes. Yet the Government remains intent on sticking with the status quo of an increasingly cashless society. 

 

“While the then-Treasury minister John Glen told our committee that a more detailed picture of cash usage in Scotland would be helpful, the Government rejected our recommendation to task the FCA with such an investigation. This could have provided useful data to inform necessary protections to ensure those using cash are not disadvantaged.

 

“The Government’s response is disappointing and I hope the new administration will reconsider its approach.”

Further information

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