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Shops exposed to crime after banks pull out of rural areas, says north MSP

By Gordon Calder

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BANKS should "hang their heads in shame" for pulling out of rural areas in the north and leaving smaller shops exposed to criminals, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has said.

She contacted Police Scotland following reports criminals were targeting small businesses in the area due to the lack of facilities to bank cash. The police are concerned about the increase in such crimes and have urged firms not to keep money on their premises.

Businesses are being targeted after bank closures, says Labour's Rhoda Grant.
Businesses are being targeted after bank closures, says Labour's Rhoda Grant.

Mrs Grant had previously raised the issue in Holyrood, asking what the Scottish Government was doing to support businesses experiencing losses due to cuts in rural banking services.

"These criminals have quickly realised that bank branch closures and cutbacks are having a knock-on effect on the ability of businesses to bank cash," she said.

"The big banks should hang their heads in shame for pulling out of villages and towns in the region, leaving smaller shops and stores exposed to criminals who are rubbing their hands in glee at their good fortune.

"The police have promised to get back to me with some figures on how many of these crimes are being recorded, which I will be interested to see.

"It’s good there is crime prevention work ongoing but I still think that the Scottish Government should be investigating how to help businesses, especially during these difficult economic times."

Responding to Mrs Grant, the operational superintendent for the Highlands and Islands division, Iain MacLelland, said the police are "taking this matter very seriously" and have put in place an action plan "committing experienced investigative resources to the respective enquiries".

He said: "Detailed work has been carried out, including extensive search activity and forensic work. These enquiries remain ongoing and I am receiving regular updates on progress.

"Our preventions officers have been doorstepping individual premises in the locality which has been repeatedly targeted, providing practical advice on business security, CCTV and generally how to keep their premises safe.

"One of the key messages to businesses is about not keeping cash on premises. We continue to provide support to the community and maintain patrols in the area."

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