THE Royal Bank of Scotland was attacked by MSPs yesterday over its plans to close more than 150 of its branches this year.
The bank has earmarked 154 branches for the axe, with just over 100 already closed down.
During a members’ debate at Holyrood, MSPs said the closures meant RBS – which is 81 per cent taxpayer-owned – was reneging on a promise to customers to remain “the last bank in town”.
The closures come amid a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions, a 232 per cent increase in internet banking, and more than 2.1 million customers using RBS’s mobile app each week.
Leading the debate, Labour MSP and the Scottish leadership contender Neil Findlay said: “What we have seen, not just in my area but across Scotland, is branch after branch after branch being pulled. In April, 44 branches were earmarked for closure, from Castletown in the north to Berwickshire in the south, and branches in England and Wales, too.
“Of these 44, 14 were the ‘last bank in town’, leaving local people and businesses with no banking facilities.”
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Mr Findlay added: “This is not the way that large companies who have received eye-watering levels of public money should be treating the people whose taxes bailed them out. RBS appears to have failed to learn a single lesson from the banking crisis.”
His remarks were backed by SNP MSP John Mason and Labour colleagues Hugh Henry and John Pentland, who said alternatives to branches such as online and mobile banking were not always sufficient.
Conservative MSP Gavin Brown said RBS and other institutions must consider closures carefully, but he acknowledged a decrease in branch footfall.
He said: “While I don’t want to see any closures… I think we do have to listen to what is happening out there on the ground.”
Enterprise minister Fergus Ewing said the government “shares and understands” concerns over branch closures, as he pledged to raise members’ issues with RBS bosses.
He said changes in the way customers bank meant that “difficult decisions” had to be made.
An RBS spokeswoman said: “Banking has changed significantly over the last few years as more and more of our customers are using different ways of banking with us when and where it is convenient for them, including in the Post Office, online, on our mobile app, by telephone or through our upgraded ATM network.
“As a result, there has been a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2011, whilst online and mobile transactions have grown by more than 200 per cent.
“We review our branch network regularly and the decision to close a branch is made on a case-by-case basis, based on branch usage and other ways our customers can bank with us in the local area. Closing a branch is a difficult decision and one we do not take lightly.
“Whenever we close a branch, we write to all our customers who use the branch regularly so that staff can discuss alternative ways they can still bank with us.”
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