Scotland's banks accused of '˜turning their backs' on communities

Scotland's banks have been accused of 'turning their back' on local communities over swingeing closures to branches in recent years, during evidence to MSPs.

Banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, have been accused of 'turning their backs' on Scottish communities through branch closures. Picture: PA
Banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, have been accused of 'turning their backs' on Scottish communities through branch closures. Picture: PA

Vulnerable and disabled Scots are being left behind by the latest spate of shutdowns as they struggle to switch to online alternatives, Holyrood’s economy committee  heard.

Union chiefs branded the impact assessment carried out by banks on locals as “one-sided” and a “disgrace.” The committee was taking evidence from community groups, trade unions chiefs and citizens advice bodies.

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And despite official claims that banks are not being used, it was claimed that customers are “queuing out the door” in many banks earmarked for closure and staff struggle to get a break.

RBS, which is majority-owned by the taxpayer, has come under fire over its most recent plans to close up to 62 branches across Scotland. It is the latest wave of ongoing closures across Scotland in recent years.

Small businesses in areas hit by closures, such as fishmongers,  have also seen  profits slump by up to 15 per cent.

Professor Cliff Beevers of  Juniper Green and Baberton Mains Community Council said; “It’s obviously the elderly, the disabled in our communities that are most affected.

“There are people that can’t remember the long list of numbers that they have to have in order to access a bank account online or by telephone. So the issues there are in our communities.”

He said there are now no banks on the A70 from Juniper Green into Edinburgh, a key artery into the capital which serves 20,000 people.

Lyn Turner, Regional Officer, Unite Scotland added: “This is a closure programme that did not have to happen -it’s being driven profit. RBS have turned their back on local communities.”

In 2015 the main high street banks signed up to a new protocol, later integrated into the Access to Banking Standard, aimed at ensuring customers are better informed about a branch closure and the reasons for it.

But this was branded “worthless” by Prof Beavers yesterday.

“It is just a piece of paper that allows the banks to pretend that they are consulting with communities,” he stated.

“In my experience there was no consultation whatsoever.

“It was an exercise that was decided in the headquarters, and the group that came to talk to the community was simply told ‘you’re closing the branch and you’re taking the ATM as well’.”

Allister Mackillop, chair of Currie Community Council, said the impact analysis carried out by Bank of Scotland when it shut its branch in the Edinburgh suburb was “an absolute disgrace”.

He said; “It was a tick-box exercise. It was purely 100% one-sided, all they were really looking at was footfall.”

An RBS spokesman said: “We understand closing a branch can be difficult for some customers and colleagues who work in these branches. It’s not an easy decision. We have listened to customers, colleagues, communities and elected representatives and we have engaged and responded.

“The way our customers are banking is changing and it is important that we respond to that change. We recognise that every customer will have different banking needs and we are committed to ensuring all our customers receive the best possible service.”