Borderers hit out at RBS suggestion that they go cashless

The Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Jedburgh.
The Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Jedburgh.

Borderers have dismissed a suggestion by the Royal Bank of Scotland that communities here could become what it calls cashless towns.

Addressing public meetings in Selkirk, Jedburgh and Eyemouth on Thursday, Borders MP John Lamont said that had been one of the bank’s responses in response to criticism over planned closures of branches in those towns, as well as Hawick and Duns.

“If you withdraw those services, people aren’t going to be able to get cash,” he said.

“It won’t only impact on individuals. It will affect rural businesses.

“One of the bank’s responses was to make the towns where branches are being closed into cashless towns, which is complete nonsense.

“We’re going to need cash for many years to come.”

The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP added: “RBS were invited to attend today. The empty chair at the front is perhaps indicative of the importance they place on local opinion.”

Organised by Mr Lamont and Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton, Thursday’s meetings were called to rally opposition after the bank announced plans late last year to close 62 branches across Scotland, including six in the Borders.

Its High Street branch in Melrose is one of 10 that subsequently won a stay of execution, with RBS agreeing to keep branches open in towns without any other bank for now.

However, Mrs Hamilton said the decision to temporarily reverse just one closure in the Borders was “a pathetic nod” to the people shouting that they did not want the service to go.

Speaking to around 30 residents gathered at the Victoria Halls in Selkirk, she said: “I still remain ambitious that we can get a U-turn.

“I don’t think either of us would be throwing our weight behind this if we didn’t think we could get movement. We haven’t given up on this fight.”

Issues raised included the lack of access to banking services for elderly and disabled people facing difficulties in accessing a diminishing mobile service and questions over how charities and community groups would cope.

Fiona Holmes, treasurer of Cancer Research UK’s Selkirk committee, said the lack of a local branch could pose a security risk to small groups such as hers.

“People are very generous in Selkirk, and a lot of the money we get is cash,” she explained. “I have got to take my mother’s old shopping trolley down because I can’t carry it, and it can be very heavy. I don’t know how secure it would be to take it further away.

“I have been told that I can go to the post office, but if I do cheques, they have to be put in separately, and I can only put so much cash in.”

Philiphaugh Estate owner Michael Strang-Steel said he goes into the Selkirk branch every week and would miss it were it to close, as planned.

“We have had three accounts with them over 60 years. Like most farmers, we run an overdraft at certain times of the year. We pay fees, and they take a lot of interest,” he said.

“I’m in that branch at least once a week. We have a lot of cash to deposit and often want to take cash out to pay workers.

“To go to Gala would make the whole operation take an hour longer, which is wasted time.”

Sir Michael added: “We’re on online banking, but we find a lot of people we deal with, even the big auction houses, like to give you a cheque.”

Selkirk’s RBS branch is due to shut up shop for the last time on May 21, with Hawick, Duns, Eyemouth and Jedburgh’s set to close their doors in June.

Melrose’s will follow suit in December if it has not seen “sustainable transactional increases” by then.

Jedburgh resident Kenneth Nicol said: “I have been with RBS since I was 12 years old, and I’m now nearly 60 – that’s a long time. I feel let down big time.

“They’re expecting people here to travel to Kelso to go to the bank. It’s absolutely shocking.

“It’s 2018, and we’re going back the way in the Borders.”