Royal Bank of Scotland used “misleading” figures to justify sweeping branch closures across the country, it has been claimed.
The taxpayer-owned institution is to shut 52 Scottish branches after granting a reprieve to ten that were facing the axe. Public anger has been growing over the hardline cost-cutting plan which will would mean the disappearance of the “last bank in town” for many areas.
It comes ahead of a “day of action” next Saturday across Scotland to protest against the closures by the institution, which was only saved from going bust by a taxpayer-funded £45 billion bailout at the height of the banking crisis.
The Scottish Nationalists’ Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has now cast doubt on claims by RBS about figures that have been used to justify the closures.
A focus on customer numbers instead of total transactions has skewed the picture, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said.
“RBS have at best, been misleading with the figures,” Blackford said.
“The bank’s own figures show only 11 customers using the Mallaig branch on a weekly basis; 27 visiting Beauly on the same basis and 51 using Kyle. These are the official figures that RBS have released.
“If you focus on the so-called 51 you might be sympathetic to the demands from RBS to close the bank and yet 25,000 transactions a year allowed me to conclude that the branch is still relatively busy.”
Kyle is now one of the branches which has been given a reprieve.
He also said the bank was being “economical with the truth” on expected lay-offs with 1,446 “actual” job losses looming – a starker picture than the 685 “full-time equivalent” posts RBS set out.
“This is obviously likely to have a disproportionate effect in rural areas, disproportionately affecting women, who are more likely to hold part-time positions.”
Blackford also stepped up calls on the UK Government – which still has ultimate control of the bank through its majority shareholding – to step in and block the closures.
“The closures of 52 branches across Scotland are completely unacceptable and must be challenged,” he added.