IT IS NOT long since the Royal Bank of Scotland closed their branch in Prestonpans, and now we face the closure of the TSB in Tranent.

The loss of the bank in Prestonpans was a major blow to the community, as it was the last bank branch in the town. The major banks used to have an informal agreement not to close a ‘last branch’, but that was ditched some time ago.

I raised this in Parliament with the relevant minister, asking him to make clear to these banks that they have received enormous financial support from the public purse, and we are entitled to expect more in return than this.

I do understand we are doing more banking online, but that is not true of everyone, and to glibly tell RBS customers in Prestonpans they can go to Tranent or Musselburgh simply demonstrates how little the bank knew or cared about this community or their own customers. We should do everything to make our displeasure known to the bank.

A more positive response has been the efforts of Councillor Wille Innes and East Lothian Council to encourage the Capital Credit Union (CCU) to open a presence in Prestonpans. These paid off earlier this week when CCU opened a new service based in Aldhammer House.

Credit unions are more than just an alternative to banking, though. East Lothian Council’s Poverty Commission recommended exactly this local access to the credit union because they recognised the role they can play in addressing poverty. Too many people are forced into the arms of the payday loan companies, or even worse illegal loan sharks. Credit unions are designed and run to allow people to save, and borrow, in a manageable way.

I have been a member of CCU for many years now, and I would encourage any reader who is not to support this initiative in the county.