Scotland

Ten closure-threatened RBS branches to stay open

RBS branch in Castlebay, Barra Image copyright Google
Image caption The RBS branch in Castlebay is the last bank on Barra

RBS is to keep 10 closure-threatened branches open until at least the end of the year.

The bank said the use of the branches would be reviewed by independent research over that period.

If the study finds that there is greater usage of a branch, its future will be subject of a further review.

The branches are Biggar, Beauly, Castlebay on Barra, Comrie, Douglas in South Lanarkshire, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Kyle of Lochalsh and Tongue.

Fifty-two other branches across Scotland still face the threat of closure.

RBS said it had "listened and engaged with customers, communities and elected representatives from all parties" and would provide an additional support package for customers across Scotland.

Digital banking

It said the vast majority of the reprieved branches were in communities where there was no other RBS branch within a nine-mile (14km) radius.

The bank said that as part of the package of support it would look to open new branches across Scotland, improve ATM accessibility for all communities affected by closures still to go ahead, review opening hours of remaining branches, and work with communities to give empty branches to local community groups for free.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Inveraray is one of the 10 branches to remain open until at least the end of the year

Westminster's Scottish Affairs committee said it now planned to summon RBS chief executive Ross McEwan "to clarify the contents of their announcements and press him on the future of the other branches in the RBS network".

In a statement, it said: "We welcome today's announcement from RBS as the first steps to addressing the concerns raised by the committee. However, given that there is a still an active closure programme being pursued by RBS, we remain to be convinced that the threat of serious consequences for remote or deprived communities has been removed.

"We hope that RBS will continue to consider the action they have taken and listen to local communities about the impact it will have on them."

The committee said it would also summon the Treasury minister responsible for representing the public interest in RBS due to the fact that the government was the majority shareholder.

Last year, RBS revealed plans to close 62 Scottish branches, including some in remote and rural communities.

The full closure plans, which also involved 197 NatWest branches, were attacked by politicians and local authorities.

In December, senior officials from the bank told the Scottish Affairs Committee that they stood by the move.

State-owned RBS had insisted it was responding to changes in customer behaviour, including a rise in digital banking.

'Full independent review'

Jane Howard, managing director for personal banking, said RBS was committed to ensuring customers and communities were able to continue to access "quality banking services".

She said the decision to keep the 10 branches open for the next 11 months showed that RBS had listened to its customers, local communities and political figures.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Fifty-two RBS branches remain at risk of closure

Ms Howard said: "During this period we will monitor the level of transactions and new income at each branch and if there is a sustained and viable increase in both then we will reconsider the closure of the relevant branch as part of a full independent review."

She added: "We'll continue to invest in our branch network and services across Scotland."

The SNP's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said at the weekend that he expected a "positive" outcome following talks with RBS officials over plans to close dozens of bank branches.

Welcoming confirmation of the partial reprieve, Mr Blackford - who has raised the issue a number of times at prime minister's questions - said it had been due to the pressure that local communities had put on the bank.

Mr Blackford added: "It is the fact the people in all of these places have said we need to make sure we continue to benefit from banking services.

"We have given a voice to that in parliament and I am delighted that RBS have listened to a certain extent."

However, he stressed that the fight to save the remaining branches would continue.

'Stay of execution'

Scottish Conservative MP John Lamont said the announcement only covered a fraction of the threatened branches, and as such "is nowhere near enough".

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said: "Of course I welcome the decision to pause any closures, but this is at best a short-term reprieve."

The Unite Scotland union, which represents many RBS workers, described the bank's announcement as only a "stay of execution" for the 10 branches.

Its deputy Scottish secretary, Mary Alexander, said "We believe that RBS has been forced to offer these concessions because of the campaign run by Unite and the local communities to expose the devastation of what the closures mean for communities and jobs.

"But if it's good enough to make these concessions what are the bank prepared to do about the other 52 communities facing the axe?"

The Federation of Small Businesses said the announcement was not the "change of heart" it had hoped for from the bank, saying businesses reliant on the 52 branches not staying open would take "little comfort" from the news.

Scottish branches still under threat

  • Aberdeen Bridge of Don
  • Aberfeldy
  • Airdrie
  • Alloa
  • Annan
  • Aviemore
  • Banff
  • Bannockburn
  • Bellshill
  • Bonnyrigg
  • Bridge of Allan
  • Campbeltown
  • Carnwath
  • Dunbar
  • Dunblane
  • Dundee Stobswell
  • Duns
  • Dyce
  • Ellon
  • Eyemouth
  • Glasgow Business Centre
  • Grantown-on-Spey
  • Hamilton Cadzow Street
  • Hawick
  • Huntly
  • Inverness Queensgate
  • Jedburgh
  • Kilbirnie
  • Kilwinning
  • Kinross
  • Langholm
  • Larkhall
  • Lesmahagow
  • Linlithgow
  • Lockerbie
  • Mallaig
  • Montrose
  • Nairn
  • North Berwick
  • Penicuik
  • Perth South Street
  • Pitlochry
  • Renfrew
  • Rothesay
  • Saltcoats
  • Selkirk
  • Stepps
  • Strathaven
  • Tain
  • Tannochside
  • Turriff
  • Wick

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