ROYAL Bank of Scotland bosses are “turning their back” on taxpayers who bailed out the institution during the banking collapse by pressing ahead with controversial branch closures, an MSP has claimed.
Labour and SNP MSPs united to attack the bank’s latest decision to close branches in parts of Scotland during a Holyrood debate on the issue yesterday.
The bank, which is 81 per cent owned by taxpayers, is shutting 14 of its 300 branches in Scotland this year. SNP MSP John Mason, who forced yesterday’s Holyrood debate, warned that the closures would harm customers in deprived areas as well as those without access to internet and mobile banking.
He said that RBS had abandoned account holders in areas such as Glasgow’s East End, where the Shettleston branch is due to close later this month.
Mr Mason used yesterday’s debate to call for an alliance of “normally antagonistic politicians” to oppose cuts to RBS branches in Scotland.
He said: “I really felt we had to try and bring everyone together. If there is one more thing that really infuriates me about this, it is that we the public actually own the Royal Bank.
“It is not just any other bank. It is one that has been bailed out by the public purse and you might think owes the public in return.”
Speaking after the debate, Mr Mason said that RBS, which was handed a multi-billon pound taxpayer bail out during the banking crisis in 2008, had failed to consult its customers on the latest cuts.
He said: “The irony of ironies is that RBS maintain that their company motto is ‘here for you’ but clearly that doesn’t count in Glasgow’s East End where they’re turning their back on the very taxpayers who bailed the bank out not so long ago.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay backed Mr Mason’s criticism of the RBS cuts.
Mr Findlay said: “A bank that is 81 per cent nationalised is acting like the most arrogant capitalists. They are being rewarded for failure, but the workforce and the communities are the ones who will lose their jobs and suffer the consequences.”
RBS insisted that customers affected by closures would still have access to the bank’s services through alternative branches in the area.
A bank spokeswoman said: “The decision to close a branch is not an easy one and can include factors such as location and proximity of other branches, usage of the branch and customer behaviour, ie use of mobile and online channels.
“There is a range of other options that our customers can use to access their accounts. These include our RBS mobile phone applications, online and telephone banking services and the use of any post office to pay bills and check balances.”