I SPOKE up at Holyrood last week about the disgraceful closure of 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches.

The loss of the Alloa branch will come on top of the Bank of Scotland closure in Alva and will further disadvantage people who struggle to get online, those with mobility problems and small businesses who need a cash deposit facility.

RBS have stated that they would never close the last bank in town, yet that’s exactly what they are now doing in a number of places.

While Post Offices can pick up some of the services they too are vulnerable, with a quarter of Post Offices closing in Scotland since 2002.

RBS needs to come to the table and sit down with communities to talk about their needs and concerns. The UK Government has a role to play too and should use its decisive share in the bank to help build a banking network that is fit for the 21st Century.

The RBS response so far has been to splash advertisements in newspapers proclaiming how forward thinking they and their online facilities are.

Coming on the back of years of malpractice that have attracted multi-million pound fines, the bank should be focussing on their customers not wasting money on adverts.

At least Clackmannanshire has its credit union as an ethical alternative for savers.

I enjoyed attending the launch of the new Connect Centre run by Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface (CTSi) and Citizen’s Advice last Friday.

It’s a great space and whether you are looking for support, volunteering opportunities or a meeting space for a group the centre is a welcoming and creative environment.

In time hot desk spaces will be opened up to those with social enterprise ideas. A centre called The Melting Pot in Edinburgh has offered a similar facility for years now and it really does bring together people with great ideas and energy to transform communities for the better.

I met a number of people at the launch who are making waves locally including the Tullibody Community Development Trust who have benefited from the support of CTSi.

Emerging from the strong community campaign to save the park, I was amazed how much progress the group has delivered in the last year.

Exciting opportunities await and amid all the talk about ‘community empowerment’ it’s good to see a real community galvanised and ready to take control.

2017 has been another busy year and I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running after a rest and time with the family over Christmas.

There is lots to do including my bill to make 20mph the default speed limit on Scotland’s residential streets to help make them safer.

Last week I secured enough support from fellow MSPs to take the bill forward to the next stage at Holyrood - time to bring it on.

I hope all Advertiser readers have a peaceful festive time and look forward to connecting with you again in 2018.