A MAJOR bank has apologised to a Scots refugee activist after his local branch tried to stop him from sending money to his Thai wife and would not let him add her name to his account.

And Ashby McGowan, from Glasgow and Thanaporn Sonkew, also received £150 for the “distress and inconvenience” they had been caused.

The couple had married in a Buddhist ceremony in Thailand, but the Home Office did not recognise it and refused three visa applications from Sonkew.

They finally managed to wed in Glasgow last month after the Sunday National pursued their case, but then McGowan spoke to us about the Bank of Scotland’s refusal to open a joint account for them.

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He said that when he tried to send a small amount of money to her in Thailand, Bank of Scotland staff in the Sauchiehall Street branch labelled her “a criminal”, although the bank – part of the Lloyds Banking Group – later gave him £11 in compensation.

That made little difference when he later went into the Argyle Street branch to transfer some cash to Sonkew, only to be told by the manager that it was “a scam”.

When he showed her evidence of the previous compensatory amount, she kept him waiting for over two hours before eventually transferring the cash.

However, McGowan has now received a written apology from executive complaint manager Courtney Speirs.

She wrote: “I was sorry to read about your experiences trying to send money to your fiancée in Thailand over the last few years.

“I understand you have also faced difficulties adding Thanaporn to your account. Please accept my apologies for the distress and inconvenience you have both been caused. To say sorry more tangibly, I’m arranging to pay £150 into your account.”

Speirs went on to express her “disappointment” about the difficulties they had experienced on several occasions.

“We take account security very seriously and have precautions in place to protect our customers from scams. These are not intended to get in the way of customers going about their everyday banking.

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“I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble adding Thanaporn to your account. I understand you have been given conflicting information about the documents we can accept for identification and verification.

“For clarification, in order to complete your joint account application, we can accept a valid passport, along with either a council tax or utility bill.

“The bill will need to have been issued in the last six months and the name should exactly match the full name on the passport document.

“I would like to reassure you that your experiences have not been due to bigotry, which we would never tolerate. Nevertheless, we have let you down on a number of occasions and left a poor impression.”

She said feedback had been given directly to their senior branch manager to ensure the necessary training issues were addressed and added: “Going forwards, I hope we can restore your faith in us and thank you again for taking the time to raise your concerns.”

McGowan said their joint account was now active and he was happy with the bank’s pledge, but urged it to be more flexible when it came to people seeking a marriage visa – the next battle for his wife to be granted leave to stay in Scotland.

“For this visa, you need – dated within a week – 12 months’ bank statements, each to be stamped and dated. It is essential,” he said.

“At two different branches, I was told they cannot do this, they give out three months’ statements at most.

“They told me I could get 12 months’ sent to my home address in five working days. They failed totally … eventually I begged and someone broke the rules and gave me the four pages of the annual statement.”

He told his MP, Patrick Grady, who pushed the UK Immigration Office for updates on the case: “Thanks for the hard work … for the reward and some compensation. I won’t take it any further.”