The survey will be used to gather feedback from a broad range of individual households, businesses and community groups in areas expected to be affected by local bank branch closures.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned Indigo House Group to carry out the work as part of a wider study into the social and economic importance of access to local banks.
In addition to the online survey, the wider study will learn from other areas that have already experienced bank closures in Scotland and wider in the UK, understand what the impact of these closures have been, and identify alternatives for local banking services.
With a unique remit for community development, HIE recognises the vulnerabilities of rural communities and the importance of equitable access to services. Increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality are also key to Scotland’s Economic Strategy.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s director of regional development, said:
“Rural communities around the Highlands and Islands are generally ambitious about their plans for growth, both in their local economy and their population. The removal of some local bank branches can present additional challenges in realising these ambitions.
“Factors such as access to business finance, and the ability to deposit and withdraw cash are fundamental to many local clubs and societies as well as businesses and social enterprises.
“It is important for us to fully understand, from those directly affected, how important rural banking services are, and to look at how else these services might be provided, particularly in the context of rural branch closures.
“The findings of this study will be important in informing how we and our partners go about helping communities achieve their ambitions for growth and resilience.”
The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“We welcome this consultation from HIE to seek communities’ views on rural banking services.
“We know how important local banking services are to individuals, businesses, and other groups in rural areas and support all efforts to ensure that essential banking services are preserved.
“We hope that the banking sector will take note of the survey and its findings, and listen to the views of local communities when developing the future plans for their rural services. We are continuing to engage with the banks to ensure that everything possible is being done for customers, local communities and staff.”
The online survey is being used to gather feedback from communities in Tongue, Wick, Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig, Aviemore, Grantown on Spey, Nairn, Inverness, Beauly, Tain, Rothesay, Campbeltown, Inveraray, and Castlebay.
It can be accessed at www.hie.co.uk/access-to-banking-services-research and is open until Friday 13 April. Hard copies of the survey will be available if required.