The Royal Bank of Scotland is refusing to guarantee the future of what, after January, will be its only three branches left in the Borders beyond 2020.
The bank’s current round of closures started in May and will end at the start of 2019, but it is only ruling out a further cull of branches for a year after that.
The five Borders branches already shut by RBS this year were those at Jedburgh, Hawick, Eyemouth, Duns and Selkirk, with Melrose’s now being set to follow in January.
Their closures followed those of the bank’s branches in Chirnside, Greenlaw and Newtown four years ago.
After its Melrose bank shuts, following a six-month reprieve and review by accountancy company Johnston Carmichael, the only RBS branches left in the Borders will be those at Kelso, Galashiels and Peebles.
Simon Watson, managing director of personal banking at RBS, said: “We would like to thank Johnston Carmichael for their review of 10 Royal Bank of Scotland branches that were due to close.
“These branches were selected because, unlike the other branches that were closed, they were nearly all the last bank in town and more than nine miles to the nearest alternative Royal Bank of Scotland branch.
“We accept Johnston Carmichael’s recommendations in full.
“We also note the further recommendations for enhancements that can be made in six of the branch locations and can confirm we will be accepting these recommendations in full.
“The report highlights the difficult nature of branch closure decisions.
“We know branches are important to many communities, but equally we know that fewer and fewer people are using them as more people bank online.
“In every case of a branch closing, we are committed to providing the best possible range of banking alternatives, including mobile branches, banking in the local post office, community bankers and remote services such as telephone banking.
“With today’s report, we are able to say for the first time with certainty that there will be no further reviews of our branch network in the immediate future – until at least 2020.”
It recommends that a free-to-use, 24-hour cashpoint be retained either at the same site site or elsewhere in the town and that more mobile branch visits are made during the summer and for the Melrose Sevens rugby tournament in April and Borders Book Festival in June.
South Scotland Labour list MSP Colin Smyth is among those critical of the latest round of closures, saying: “This is the last act of betrayal from RBS as they will leave much of the Borders with no RBS branch.
“RBS bosses have shown absolutely no care and consideration for the local communities they serve, and many people here locally will now rightly see this so-called independent review as nothing other than sham as only one bank branch in the south of Scotland has been saved.”
“The closure of the Melrose RBS branch will have a negative impact on the local community and local businesses who rely on its services and advice.
“I am appalled that the UK Government, the owners of RBS, failed to take any action to stop these closures.
“The savings made by closing these branches will save RBS pennies compared to the huge profits that they have been posting.
“When RBS collapsed, it was hard-pressed taxpayers who saved them with a huge bailout, and the way they repay the public is to walk away from communities across our region.”
Leaderdale and Melrose councillor David Parker is also unhappy about the latest closure announcement, saying: “It’s disappointing that RBS has decided ultimately to close the branch as it’s the only bank left in Melrose.
“There’s a real feeling of bitterness and upset about it and about the ingratitude being shown by RBS as this isn’t really a private-sector business. It’s had tens of billions of pounds of public money spent on keeping it afloat.
“There’s a feeling the review was a box-ticking exercise and this closure was going to happen anyway.
“It’s also a real own goal as many RBS customers have already taken their business elsewhere, and more will follow.”
The two branches to remain open following this year’s review are those at Biggar in South Lanarkshire and Barra in the Outer Hebrides.
The other seven branches shutting, besides Melrose’s, are those at Comrie, Beauly, Douglas, Gretna, Inverary, Kyle and Tongue.
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