Galashiels' Virgin Money branch to close

Virgin Money’s plans to close its only Borders-based branch in January has been branded “shameful” and “bizarre” by the Unite union.

The Virgin Money branch in Galashiels is set to close on January 26.
The Virgin Money branch in Galashiels is set to close on January 26.

The former Galashiels branch of Clydesdale Bank, which was brought under the Virgin banner in 2018 “to provide a bigger, better and brighter bank” is set to close on January 26, in a move which will see 12 branches across Scotland, and a further 19 in England, close their doors.

Customers of the Galashiels branch now face a 33-mile journey to Edinburgh's George Street.

Unite, which is the only recognised union for workers at the bank, says it’s estimated that around 76 employees in Scotland are likely to be made redundant, given the lack of suitable transfer alternatives nearby.

Debbie Hutchings, Unite’s industrial officer, said: “The proposed closure of 12 Virgin Money branches across Scotland is not only shameful but bizarre as the group has just about completed the rebranding exercise of the former Clydesdale branches.”

“The announcement will disproportionately impact on workers and communities across Scotland, and it is here where the Virgin Group axe will fall the hardest.”

A spokesperson for the bank said: "Virgin Money regularly reviews the ways customers use its stores, as well as its online, mobile and telephone channels, so that it can adapt its services to meet changing customer demand. The number of customers using bank branches for day-to-day transactions has been on a downward trajectory across the UK banking industry for a number of years, and this has been further accelerated by the pandemic.

“The decision to close a store is based on a number of factors, including location, usage, proximity to alternative stores and lease arrangements. Each store was assessed on an individual basis, with careful consideration of the impact on the local area, as well as the needs of vulnerable customers and the accessibility of alternative services such as free-to-use ATMs and the Post Office.”

Local MP John Lamont said: “This is yet another bank branch being taken from the Borders and is really disappointing.

“I have reached out to Virgin Money this morning to ascertain what support will be in place for employees and customers.

“I also want to know how many customers are using the branch currently. Too often these large corporations present statistics showing falling footfall. But this does not reflect the vital service it provides to vulnerable customers on a weekly basis.

“It is important that alternatives on offer – Post Office, ATM, digital banking – provide the services that people actually need.

“The pandemic has hastened a move towards a cashless society and I worry about what this will mean for vulnerable individuals and local businesses.

“We must protect access to cash for those who want or need to use it.”