Debanking is back on our headlines and, this time, it seems the countryside is at risk.
Reports from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the UK’s foremost shooting and conservation organisation, have revealed what appear to be widespread debanking incidents and the subsequent impacts on the shooting sector. The publication has targeted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for answers on this industry-wide issue.
BASC is a staunch advocate for sustainable shooting and the preservation of countryside ecosystems. Not only is shooting deeply ingrained in the cultural and environmental fabric of the countryside, but it also sustains over 74,000 full-time jobs and contributes more than £2 billion to the UK economy.
So, targeting shooting companies as the latest victims of debanking? This seems to be yet another questionable move by UK financial institutions.
Keep up with the debanking story with TechRound. See Founder and Editor-in-Chief David Soffer’s discussion on GB News.
Conserving Countryside Shooting
The perception of countryside shooting often conjures up outdated negative stereotypes to the forefront of our minds. After all, isn’t this an unjust sport that jeopardises animal safety? Or a pastime for the affluent upper class donned in red coats?
It’s time to shift the narrative, as the reality of countryside shooting can be markedly different.
BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, actively promotes sustainable shooting practices. It goes beyond providing extensive training and educational programs, additionally undertaking, commissioning and investing in diverse conservation initiatives.
The organisation is dedicated to battling the bad press of shooting, dedicating its efforts to showcasing the sport as a benefit to the environment as well as to the economy through active education and engagement.
Despite these efforts, BASC has been documenting instances of individuals and businesses within the shooting sector facing undeserved criticism and disapproval.
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Gathering Evidence of Debanking
BASC has diligently gathered evidence on the banking challenges faced within the shooting sector, receiving input from numerous individuals who shared their experiences. After widespread response, a consensus emerged, revealing a pervasive issue across the industry.
This has resulted in over 30 case studies involving issues with more than 15 different banks and financial service providers, with a notable focus on instances related to Barclays.
Among the highlighted cases are the recent closure of two clay shooting grounds, along with threats to shut down the accounts of a wildfowling club and a pigeon shooting club.
A common thread identified revolves around the information forms that banks require, specifically those detailing business activities. Namely, when businesses complete and return these forms, they are confronted with threatening letters from the bank, accusing them of non-compliance.
Despite efforts to rectify the situation through call centres, account closures persist, often catching individuals off guard when they suddenly find themselves unable to access online banking services.
Furthermore, the application process for shooting businesses and individuals seeking banking services can be arduous. Notably, HSBC subjects applicants to a prolonged process, delving into shooting-related matters and requesting documents such as shooting leases and firearm forms.
This all seems like rather ridiculous lengths to go to just to open a bank account, prompting the question: Are UK banks forcing the shooting sector to jump through hoops for a bank account for more sinister underlying motivations?
The Debanking Debacle
The issues between the shooting sector and its respective financial industries starkly resemble other instances of debanking observed by TechRound. Specifically, BASC noted that each case led to “unexplained account closures.”
Earlier this year, TechRound covered Nigel Farage’s debanking, where similar perplexing situations arose for the former UKIP leader. Following his rejection by Coutts, ten additional banks declined his account-opening requests, offering little to no explanations.
This lack of forewarning, coupled with minimal post-closure support or explanation, has become a trademark of debanking. It seems the practice aims to catch individuals unprepared and off guard.
Mr Farage’s experience also highlights another key aspect of the bizarre phenomena. That is the herd mentality adopted by UK banks in debanking matters. Once one bank shuts you off, you can probably expect others to follow suit – a trend seemingly noted in the shooting industry as well.
BASC emphasises that the industry has faced issues with multiple banks, including familiar names like NatWest, Santander, HSBC, Barclays, and Lloyds.
Coutts, a private arm of NatWest, turned away Nigel Farage, while Andrew Tate faced rejections from Santander, HSBC, Barclays, and Lloyds last year.
But there are some new names in the mix too, including RBS, Metro, Cashplus, Clover, Klarna, Paycraft, Stripe, Sum-Up and Starling.
The widespread reluctance of these banks to offer accounts to businesses in the shooting industry suggests a unanimous decision not to collaborate with such enterprises.
Interestingly, though, the publication pointed out an additional aspect not seen in previous debanking scenarios – chaos and miscommunication in bank account application forms becoming a tool for banks to cut off individuals.
Is there a deliberate effort to whip up confusion around these forms, creating a growing challenge for shooting businesses seeking to apply to banks? In other words, are these endless business activity forms, shooting leases, landowner letters, firearm forms, and so on, being exploited as a means to debank people in the industry?
Discrimination, or a Wider Problem?
So, is this all down to discrimination against the shooting industry, or has the sector simply become entangled in the broader debanking issue?
In short, probably both.
It’s evidently not just the shooting sector that’s being targeted. Still, the debanking trend does have a habit of targeting individuals or groups that don’t fit the right image. This may mean following controversial opinions, affiliating with the wrong kind of groups, or perhaps making ‘anti-woke’ statements.
In other words, perhaps shooting, with its lingering associations of an unjust sport or outdated upper-class indulgence, may no longer align with the narrative the establishment wishes to convey – just like other politically motivated instances such as Coutts rejecting Nigel Farage due to his unpopular views, or PayPal shutting down accounts associated with the Free Speech Union.
This raises a broader concern about the excessive power banks wield in targeting individuals for their views, as highlighted by Spiked journalist Molly Kingsley coining it “Big Tech’s war on free speech” – a phrase that accurately hits upon the worrying ability financial institutions have to cut people off from their accounts in a society where online banking dominates.
Of course, before getting carried away, it’s crucial to note that there is no concrete evidence that the shooting industry is being deliberately targeted.
As acknowledged in the publication, there are only 30 case studies, so far. While these shouldn’t be disregarded, it is still a relatively small number compared to the numerous shooting clubs and businesses across the UK.
More evidence must therefore be gathered on the subject before any fingers are pointed – something BASC are already working on. The organisation are openly calling for anyone in the industry with a debanking story to write in to piece the puzzle together.
In the meantime, we must wait to better understand how this latest development intertwines with the broader debanking challenge.