RBS suspends mobile banking on Barra

Tiny Barra is one of the UK's most isolated communities. Picture: Stornoway Gazette
Tiny Barra is one of the UK's most isolated communities. Picture: Stornoway Gazette
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Royal Bank of Scotland is to suspend its mobile banking operations on the isle of Barra because of “hostility” towards its workers due to a planned branch closure.

RBS said it would suspend services from next Monday, saying that the mobile unit was also being affected by “low useage” and the capacity of the ferry to Barra.

The service, which was due to operate three times a week, was launched last month as an experiment amid plans to close the branch at Castlebay as part of proposed sweeping closures across Scotland.

The branch at Lochboisdale on South Uist, which would be Barra’s closest branch if the Castlebay closure goes ahead, is already operating on reduced opening hours.

The bank, which has earmarked 62 branches in Scotland for closure, including a number in remote communities, has faced backlash over the plans in recent months. It said ten branches would remain open until the end of the year, pending a review.

Recommendations as to whether the branches should ultimately stay open will be published by the bank’s independent reviewer, Johnston Carmichael, in September.

A spokeswoman for RBS said: “The review will include all the alternative ways of banking on Barra, including the mobile van.

“In the meantime, due to a range of factors including low usage, the ferry capacity and a degree of hostility our staff on the mobile branch have faced on a small number of occasions, we are suspending the mobile branch service from week commencing 2 July until the review is complete.

“Our colleagues will be informing customers over the coming days.”

Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, said: “RBS were planning a three-times-a-week service to Barra, taking up valuable space on the ferry and spending thousands of pounds on travel. The penny may finally have dropped that it is better not only for their customers but also their own bank balance to abandon all plans for branch cuts.”

In May, a Twitter account for tourism on Barra, @BarraIsland, wrote: “Massive waste of money. Three times a week – wonder how many times it will be in the winter? And how many times will it actually be if they close #castlebay branch?”

The Federation of Small Businesses has campaigned against the closures, describing the proposed fate of the Barra branch as “a shining example of a problem sweeping rural Highlands and Islands and the country as a whole”. If the Castlebay branch is closed, people would have to make a 50-mile round trip, including a journey on a ferry, to make a cash deposit.

The other RBS branches on the reprieve list are: Biggar, Beauly, Comrie, Douglas in South Lanarkshire, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Kyle of Lochalsh and Tongue. Johnston Carmichael is to assess the impact of closing each one and will provide a recommendation as to whether they should stay open. RBS has pledged to follow the recommendations “in full”.