Sign of times as RBS puts in plans to remove cashpoint and branding at Borders branch
There appears no turning back as the Royal Bank of Scotland presses ahead with its plans to withdraw from the Borders.
The bank has submitted a planning bid to remove its branding and all fixtures and fittings from one of the five branches in the region scheduled to shut in the summer.
The application is for the removal of the bank’s external signage, cashpoint and all “furniture and equipment relating to the operation of the RBS” at its branch in Market Square in Duns.
Similar applications are expected to follow for the RBS banks earmarked for closure in Hawick, Jedburgh, Selkirk and Eyemouth, though the branch in Melrose has been given a stay of execution until the end of the year.
The planning bid comes as figures used by RBS to justify branch closures across the Borders have been called into question.
The bank has repeatedly said that branch use had fallen by 40% despite the impression locally being that most branches earmarked for closure are well used.
However, figures compiled by a national newspaper investigation suggest the bank has either underestimated visitor numbers at its Melrose branch by a factor of nearly 20 or that there has been an upsurge in business there since customers were urged to use it or lose it.
RBS says the branch had an average of 53 customers a week, but a Sunday Mail survey found it was used by 151 customers in just one day.
If those numbers reflect an average day, it would mean the outlet could expect to see more than 1,000 customers a week.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont believes the survey’s findings offer more evidence that RBS need to think again.
He said: “These figures will come as no surprise to Borderers who use our RBS branches.
“We all know that, despite what the bank says, they are well used and important to local communities.
“The bank’s whole decision-making process has been murky to say the least, and reports like this cast even more doubt on the decision to close so many branches in the Borders.
“If Melrose is really seeing over 1,000 customers a week, the case for closing the branch is even weaker.
“If it is the case that RBS has been intentionally altering the figures, this will be viewed very badly by customers in the Borders.”
Last week, the union Unite Scotland staged protests outside RBS branches nationwide demanding that bank bosses end their closure programme.
That move came after the bank announced £750m bottom-line profits in its 2017 annual return and after it emerged that its 80 top bankers earn more than a £1m a year.
Bank chief executive Ross McEwan has hailed the results as a “symbolic moment” for the firm.
The deputy Scottish secretary of Unite, Mary Alexander, differs, however, saying: “Ross McEwan says reaching these profits is a symbolic moment.
“Unite Scotland agrees. It should be a symbolic moment for cash-rich RBS to review its branch closure programme.
“It will save RBS £9.5m by closing 62 branches across Scotland. What’s that against profits running into hundreds of millions?
“Whilst RBS continues to wield the axe on its branches in Scotland and put more than 300 jobs at risk, the payments made to the top executives in 2017 remain eye-watering.”
Selkirk’s RBS bank is scheduled to close at the end of May, and the other four Borders branches facing the axe are set to follow suit the month after.