Fate of Melrose bank to be decided in September, RBS bosses reveal

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

The fate of Melrose’s Royal Bank of Scotland branch is set to be decided in September, it has been revealed.

RBS has appointed Johnston Carmichael, Scotland’s largest independent accountancy firm, to carry out the review that will determine whether the High Street branch remains open beyond its current six-month reprieve.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton and MP John Lamont outside Hawick's RBS, closed last week.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton and MP John Lamont outside Hawick's RBS, closed last week.

It was originally due to shut this Friday, June 21, but, along with nine other branches nationwide, was given a stay of execution until the end of the year after a rethink by RBS in February.

All five other Borders RBS branches among the 52 being shut nationally have now closed, Jedburgh’s, the last to go, having shut on Monday.

Bank bosses have agreed to be bound by the findings of Johnston Carmichael’s review, so customers of Melrose’s RBS have three months to ensure it is kept busy to avoid it going the same way as Jedburgh, Hawick, Eyemouth, Duns and Selkirk’s branches.

Feedback from customers and representatives of interested organisations will also be taken into account.

Les Matheson, chief executive officer for personal and business banking for RBS, said: “The way people do their banking is changing rapidly, and the Royal Bank of Scotland needs to react to that change, but we also realise that we must manage the change carefully.

“We listened to customers, colleagues and elected representatives of all stakeholders and, as a result, we have asked Johnston Carmichael to carry out an independent review of 10 branches which are nearly all the last banks in town and are more than nine miles from the nearest Royal Bank of Scotland branch.

“Johnston Carmichael is perfectly suited to undertake this independent review because of their history, knowledge and understanding of rural Scottish communities and businesses.

“I am confident that they will undertake a thorough review of these 10 branches, and whatever their recommendation, the Royal Bank will accept it in full.”

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont is urging Melrose bank customers to take advantage of the current reprieve to save their bank.

“It’s been hugely disappointing to see the RBS signs coming down across the Borders over the past few weeks, but there remains a chance that Melrose’s branch can be saved,” he said.

“The Royal Bank of Scotland have taken their time to get this review going, and there is now a really short window to change the bank’s mind.

“I’ll be meeting with Johnston Carmichael shortly and will be making it very clear that the Melrose branch is a busy and important service for the town and must be retained.

“I’ll also be pointing out that over 100 local residents turned up to my public meeting to oppose the branch closure and many hundreds more have signed my petition.

“Details about how you can take part in the review will be announced shortly, but, in the meantime, I’d encourage anyone who opposed the closure of the Melrose branch to get in touch with my office and, crucially, to make sure you use the branch in the next few months.”

Melrose’s RBS has been the only bank there since the closure of its Bank of Scotland rival in Market Square in October 2016.

Johnston Carmichael chief executive Sandy Manson added: “We act for many businesses and individuals throughout Scotland. We therefore believe we are best placed to advise the Royal Bank of Scotland on both the needs of bank customers in these communities and, based on a number of criteria, to assess the viability of each branch and make informed and objective recommendations about whether each branch should remain open or not.”