MSP hits out at bank boss over refusal to return to Borders

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

Borders MSP Christine Grahame has hit out at Royal Bank of Scotland boss Ross McEwan for refusing to make what would be his third visit of the year to the region to discuss the uncertain future facing Melrose’s RBS branch.

The Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP invited Mr McEwan back to the Borders to give her a chance to state the case for keeping the Melrose branch open once its six-month stay of execution expires at the end of the year.

Ross McEwan, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Ross McEwan, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Mr McEwan, chief executive of RBS since 2013, declined to take her up on that invitation, though, saying he felt the two visits he’s already made to the region this year, to Peebles in January and Melrose in April, had given him enough of an insight into the issues at stake.

Ms Grahame is unconvinced, however, saying: “Given that he heads a company with 72% public ownership, I’m disappointed that Mr McEwan doesn’t deem it necessary to visit Melrose to understand the impact these decisions are having.

“The claim that post offices are a viable alternative is simply ill thought out. Often, post offices are in busy shops with limited privacy and, as talented as post office staff are, I do not believe they would have the same expertise as the local banking staff RBS are currently considering making redundant.

“Many people are still dependent on high street services, and this is a lifeline service for some.

“The claim that customers are opting for online banking is in part a consequence of closures. This option is not practicable for businesses lodging cash takings or, in particular, some elderly or vulnerable people who are not too content with online.

“I myself would rather use face-to-face services.

“These swingeing cuts further highlight the need for the Tory UK Government to start acting to ensure the industry is properly regulated and customers and businesses are properly catered for.”

Ms Grahame is urging customers to make sure they use the High Street bank over the next two and a half months to boost its chances of survival.

She is also calling on them to get in touch with her so she can compile a dossier of concerns about the possible closure to present to bank bosses.

“I want to hear from local people on the impact these RBS decisions are having on them, so I can raise this directly with the bank,” she said.

“I’d encourage anyone affected to get in touch either by email at christine.grahame.msp@parliament.scot or by telephone at 01896 759575.”

Whether the bank stays open beyond the half-year reprieve announced for it, and nine other branches nationwide, in February is dependent on a study being carried out by accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael.

It is carrying out a review of the branch’s viability until September, and RBS has agreed to be bound by its findings, so customers have the rest of the summer to generate enough business for it to be deemed viable.

Les Matheson, chief executive officer for personal and business banking for RBS, said: “I am confident that they will undertake a thorough review of these 10 branches, and whatever their recommendation, the Royal Bank of Scotland will accept it in full.”

All five other Borders RBS branches among the 52 being shut nationally – at Jedburgh, Hawick, Eyemouth, Duns and Selkirk – have now closed.

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