Outrage as last bank in Armadale set to close

RBS will pull out of Armadale. Picture: Greg Macvean

RBS will pull out of Armadale. Picture: Greg Macvean

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Residents of Armadale have been left stunned after learning the last bank in the town is to be closed in a matter of weeks after 125 years of business.

The Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed it would close its branch in the West Lothian town later this year, in what has been described as a “disappointing” blow.

An RBS spokeswoman said it had been a “difficult” decision to close the doors on November 4.

“The number of transactions taking place at this branch has dropped by 16 per cent over the last few years,” she added.

It comes after the announcement last month that it was pulling the plug on the bank’s presence at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, following North Bridge and Balerno branches calling a halt on operations.

Additionally, branches in Longniddry and East Linton were closed on 26 June and replaced with a mobile branch service.

The closure, combined with the end of council-funded West Lothian Municipal Bank will leave Armadale with no bank of its own.

The town’s RBS branch was opened by Commercial Bank of Scotland in April 1890, becoming independent in 1902.

Modern technology and the rise of mobile and internet banking has seen the use of bank branches dwindle, and the Gogarburn-based financial group, which was bailed out by the taxpayer in 2008, says there has been a 30 per cent cut in branch transactions across its branch network since 2010.

In the case of the Armadale closure, RBS said it is taking steps to continue accommodating customers who prefer using counter services.

The town will become part of its mobile branch, and the bank said: “We are currently working with local representatives in the area to map out the correct route and we will publish the timetable before the branch closes.”

Customers will also be able to access basic services for their account at the local post office, and the RBS ATM will also remain.

However, such gestures are not enough for Councillor Stuart Borrowman, who said the news is “very disappointing” and has practical and very symbolic implications for the town.

He said: “The town has a population of 12,000 and growing. It is attracting growing private-sector investment, and its town centre relies on people visiting for a range of reasons, including going to the bank. If one of these is taken away, then they will instead go somewhere else.”

The councillor acknowledged that consumer habits have changed, but said some customers would still prefer to deal with a person they knew.

RBS plans to close 44 sites across the UK – including 14 classed as “last banks in town”. In June its chairman Sir Philip Hampton said more branch closures were “inevitable”.