Scottish Government urges action on RBS blitz on branches

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The threatened closure of 62 RBS branches has prompted the Scottish Government to demand a minimum level for essential banking services.

Branches in towns as varied as Linlithgow, Bellshill and Giffnock are among dozens caught up in what the Holyrood administration calls “deep and damaging cuts”.

RBS is one of several banks which argue that declining use of branches because of internet banking has undermined their viability.

An RBS spokesman said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile. “Since 2012 the number of customers using our branches in Scotland has fallen by 44 per cent.

“Only one per cent of our customers in Scotland now use a branch regularly while the number of regular mobile users has increased by 39 per cent since 2015.”

Other banks have a very similar perspective.

In Denny, residents face the prospect of having no banks in their town after Lloyds Banking Group announced its latest raft of branch closures.

The Bank of Scotland premises in Glasgow Road, Denny, looks to be going the way of the Clydesdale Bank in Duke Street, which shut for good back in 2015, as Lloyds released details of 49 branches – including 11 in Scotland – earmarked for closure next year at a loss of almost 100 jobs.

Holyrood business minister Paul Wheelhouse has now urged the UK Government to defend customers, and take steps to ensure particularly vulnerable customers and small businesses have access to day to day banking services.

He said: “While we appreciate that many customers are choosing to access services digitally, and there clearly has been rapid growth of online banking at RBS in particular, there are many customers for whom this is neither a practical option, nor an option they are comfortable with, perhaps where they may be more fearful of online fraud.

“For these customers there is an imperative to meet their requirement for access to physical face-to-face banking services.”

He is also concerned at the threat to the availability of cash machines, particularly where “the last branch in town” is being lost - taking with it possibly the only ATM serving a local community.

Mr Wheelhouse wants the support of the UK government in calling a halt to Royal Bank closures - and any others planned by other banks - while both Scottish and UK governments thrash out a plan that will “take account of its obligation to its customers to provide a banking service that meets their needs.”

He’s also seeking a meeting with the relevant UK Government minister and senior RBS staff to discuss in detail what can be done to support staff and customers caught up in the intended blitz of branches.