Hopes are rising that the Royal Bank of Scotland will rethink its plans to close 62 of its branches nationwide, including six in the Borders, later this year.
Even if that rumoured reprieve is forthcoming, however, it might not be enough to save five of the six branches facing the axe here as it is believed that those in towns with no other bank would be given priority in any such climbdown.
Only Melrose’s High Street branch would fit that bill as it has been the only bank there since the closure of its Bank of Scotland rival in Market Square in October 2016.
All five other towns in the Borders that RBS is about to pull out of – Hawick, Jedburgh, Selkirk, Duns and Eyemouth – are home to Bank of Scotland branches.
Hawick and Jedburgh have two other banks apiece besides their RBS branches, a Santander in the former and TSB in the latter.
Up to 13 RSB branches are reported to be in line for a reprieve, but bank bosses have declined to comment on any possible backtracking, confirming only that a consultation process is still under way.
Borders MP John Lamont is hopeful that a U-turn is afoot, however.
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP has held a meeting with John Glenn, economic secretary to the Treasury, to discuss the planned closures were in the Borders and has also called on Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene, and he is also – along with Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton – hosting three meetings this week to rally opposition among disgruntled customers.
Mr Lamont, a member of the UK Government’s Scottish affairs committee, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear to RBS that communities like those in the Borders are not going to take this news lying down.
“Many have already voted with their feet and moved bank, and the political pressure coming from all parties in Westminster is starting to take its toll.
“I have been overwhelmed by the number of emails and letters from constituents expressing concerns about losing their local bank.
“The greatest anxiety is coming from those who live in Melrose where they will be losing their last bank.
“Every one of these closures will cause problems for local businesses and vulnerable customers, and I remain strongly opposed to them.
“RBS closed three branches just a few years ago and shouldn’t be shutting any more branches.
“The bank will hopefully show itself capable of listening to communities and rethink its plans.
“If they do announce some concessions, this will be a good start to the campaign against the RBS branch closures and will be a credit to the clear message coming from communities in the Borders.”
Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party group in the House of Commons, is also optimistic following talks with bank bosses, saying: “Our discussions have been productive and are moving in a positive direction.
“I am hopeful the concerns of our communities are being heard and that a breakthrough can still be found.”
Mr Lamont and Mrs Hamilton’s meetings are being held this Friday, February 9, at Duns Volunteer Hall at 12.30pm, Hawick Town Hall at 4pm and Melrose Corn Exchange at 6pm.
Those going along will be able to sign petitions protesting against the closures.