Borders MP John Lamont has added his voice to calls for UK Government Prime Minister Theresa May to rethink her refusal to intervene to try to avert the closure of 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches nationwide later this year.
Six of the nine RBS branches in the Borders face the axe, and the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP believes more should be done in a bid to save them.
The Scottish National Party’s leader in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford, urged Mrs May to act to halt the closures in Parliament in December, albeit to no avail, and Mr Lamont is now following suit.
Following up his criticism of the bank following the refusal of two of its executives to reconsider their plans during a Scottish affairs committee hearing at Westminster last month, he said: “While this is a commercial decision for RBS to defend, I do think the UK Government needs to be firmer with the bank.
“It is time the Prime Minister dragged the boss of RBS into No 10 to make it clear these closures are the wrong decision and need to be reconsidered.
“I am strongly opposed to these plans by RBS and was less than impressed with the excuses they gave to the Scottish affairs committee.
“This is going to hugely impact on vulnerable customers and local community organisations who rely on the face-to-face service you get at a local bank branch.”
Mr Lamont and fellow Conservative Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, have organised a series of meetings next week to rally opposition to the closure plans.
They will all be held on Friday, February 9 – at Duns Volunteer Hall at 12.30pm, Hawick Town Hall at 4pm and Melrose Corn Exchange at 6pm.
Mrs Hamilton said: “I don’t believe RBS have fully thought through the impact on traders and businesses who transact in cash and cheques.
“Forcing local businesses to bank online is all very well, but digital connectivity is patchy and cannot be relied upon.”
“Post office replacement services are welcome, but most have relocated to convenience stores, which doesn’t exactly provide a professional and discreet environment for business banking.”
RBS plans to shut its branches in Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh, Duns, Eyemouth and Melrose, plus another 56 across Scotland, later this year.
That would leave only three branches in the Borders – at Peebles, Galashiels and Kelso.