THe Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has cited the increased use of mobile banking apps and the resultant fall in transactions at local branches, as the reason for closing six long-standing branches in the Borders.
It’s believed that between 25-30 jobs will be lost in the Borders, with the banks in Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh, Duns, Eyemouth and Melrose all expected to close in 6 months.
It’s part of a nationwide slash, with 62 RBS and 197 NatWest branches closing with the loss of 680 jobs.
The move means that in the last few years, RBS will have closed nine of its branches in the region, with only Kelso, Galashiels or Peebles remaining open. Hawick residents face a 40-mile round trip to visit a bank and those living in Duns will have to travel 30 miles to Berwick and back.
Three years ago, the bank also shut its branches in Chirnside, Greenlaw and Newtown St Boswells. The Bank of Scotland also announced this year that its branches in Coldstream, Lauder, West Linton and Newtown St Boswells were closing.
An RBS spokesperson said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile.
“Since 2014, the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period.
“Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.
“We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected.”
The Unite union has said the closures are “savage”.
A spokesperson for Unite said: “The news today by RBS is totally shocking and represents a change in how the banking sector conducts its affairs.
“The sheer scale of this latest round of branch closures is savage. How can a UK taxpayer-backed organisation devastate local communities by disenfranchising them of the ability to bank at their local branch?
“Once again loyal staff, that have helped to rebuild RBS over the last decade, will be rewarded with the prospect of an uncertain future and a bleak Christmas.”
Local politicians have expressed their disappointment with the news and called on the bank to do all it can to support customers and staff.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont said: “I’ve spoken to senior management to express my deep disappointment about this news. It is hard not to come to the conclusion that RBS simply does not care about its customers in rural Scotland.
“Alongside other Conservative MPs, I will be meeting senior RBS Executives early next week to discuss how this will impact on our communities.
“We’ve now had nine RBS branches close in recent years and many people will be asking when this will stop. These plans effectively mean RBS is set to withdraw from the Borders.
“While we all accept that with internet and telephone banking, branch use has declined, I don’t believe the banks understand fully that many elderly and vulnerable people want to do their banking face to face. And many local businesses who handle cash need their local branch.
“Despite my protests, RBS do not look likely to reverse this decision, so the focus now needs to be on supporting customers and staff. I have sought a commitment from RBS that mobile branches will be rolled out in all six towns at the very least.”
And Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, added: “This is a hugely disappointing news and will hit high streets in the Borders hard.
“This will damage footfall and put extra strain on local business as a result, let alone RBS customers who will now have to face significant journeys to Kelso or Galashiels if they want to visit their nearest branch.
“I hope RBS will reconsider these closures, and are not left bemoaning its decision when further investment comes to the Borders.”
Timescale for closures
● Selkirk branch May 21, 2018
● Duns branch: June 5, 2018
● Eyemouth branch: June 11, 2018
● Hawick branch: June 14, 2018
● Jedburgh branch: June 18, 2018
● Melrose branch: June 21, 2018