THE Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks yesterday announced the closure of 28 branches across the UK, including 16 in Scotland, in a cash saving exercise.
A statement issued by the group said the move would result in a one-off saving of £5 million and was part of plans to “reshape” their retail banking sector and reinvest for future growth.
The bank claimed that front-line jobs would be “safeguarded”, but local politicians whose constituencies will be affected by the closures were angered that their communities would lose banking services.
The shake-up will see four Clydesdale branches close in Aberdeen and the North-east. Other Scottish areas affected include Perthshire, Fife, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Central Scotland.
The group said that savings made from closures would be reinvested in the business, which will see the launch of six flagship branches and four branches moved to better sites.
The next nine months will see the “reshaping” of the group’s 320 branch network. The six flagship branches will consist of the refurbished Glasgow head office and newly refurbished London Piccadilly office being joined by Aberdeen (St Nicholas) and Sheffield (Fargate) and also new sites in Edinburgh and Leeds.
According to the company, the flagship model will become the template for the development of future branches and for upgrading the existing branch network in the coming years.
The closure of “unsustainable” branches will be accompanied by £45m investment in customer improvements.
Greater focus will be put on improved mobile and internet banking services. In another technological development, resources will be invested in creating “contactless” payment technology for debit cards and mobile payments with the introduction of Paym which will enable payments to be sent and received using just a mobile number.
But the prospect of high street banks closing was greeted with concern by MSPs in the North-east, where the Bridge of Don and Woodside branches will shut in Aberdeen alongside those in Bucksburn and Alford.
The SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, Mark McDonald, said: “This will be a great cause of concern for my constituents. A large number of them will be affected by this, either as a result of the loss of the service in their local area or the potential job losses which may arise as a result.
“There appears to have been no warning of this announcement, and I had not received any indication that Clydesdale Bank branches in my constituency would be under threat.
“I am seeking an urgent meeting with bank bosses to discuss these matters and the impact these closures will have on my constituents.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald added: ““There will be a real sense of betrayal in Aberdeen at these sweeping closures. The decision to shut so many branches in and around Aberdeen suggests they no longer want to serve local communities within Scotland’s most successful local economy. This looks like short-term cost-cutting at the expense of customer service.”
David Thorburn, chief executive Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, said: “To deliver what are fundamentally necessary changes, we have to face up to difficult decisions. No branch closure is welcomed by customers or staff, I understand that, which is why we are working to minimise the effects these changes have on them.”