Anger over Capital bank closures

The RBS branch at North Castle Street is set to close next June. Picture: Scott Louden
The RBS branch at North Castle Street is set to close next June. Picture: Scott Louden
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ROYAL Bank of Scotland’s plans to shut half its Edinburgh branches has sparked anger across the Capital with warnings of campaigns to stop the closures and predictions of customers switching to rivals.

RBS – still more than 70 per cent publicly-owned following the 2008 bail-out – announced last week it will close nine of its 17 city branches next year.

The bank blames a trend ­towards more online and mobile banking and a decline in the number of branch transactions.

But community leaders in ­areas affected by the closures said many people, including older folk, did not use internet banking and now face long journeys to find a bank.

Michelle Thomson, MP for Edinburgh West, where Davidson’s Mains is one to close, said an accessible local branch was essential for elderly and vulnerable people.

She said: “Recently, we have seen a worrying trend, with this announcement coming just months after the Bank of Scotland closed its branches in Blackhall and Corstorphine.

“Local bank branches have long formed the backbone of communities and, with two out of three banks in the Davidson’s Mains and Blackhall area closing branches, there will be real concern about service provision.”

Rod Alexander of the Davidson’s Mains Association said the closure was “appalling”. “It’s a busy branch,” he said. “If they’re closing Davidson’s Mains they are getting desperate to raise funds. There will be a local campaign against this.”

Steve Gregory, secretary of Morningside Community Council, suggested the closure of the Comiston branch could prove bad for business.

“I think there will quite a lot of angry customers, particularly elderly people. The next nearest RBS branch is Bruntsfield. There is a Bank of Scotland on the ­opposite corner and a Santander about 100 metres up the road. I would expect RBS will lose quite a few customers.”

Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray said RBS was reacting to an increase in online and mobile banking. But he said: “They cannot forget the people, particularly the elderly, who don’t have ­access to the internet.”

Gavin Corbett, Green Councillor for Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart, said he was disappointed to see the Chesser branch earmarked for the axe “especially so soon after the Shandon branch was closed”.

Liberton/Gilmerton councillor Norma Austin Hart said the closure of the Gilmerton branch would hit local people hard, adding: “This kind of decision leaves people feeling their community is being undermined.” Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said banks were still a vital lifeline for many people.

She said: “I have met with RBS to discuss the proposals, and I will work to improve ­access to ­vital services.”

RBS said the closures would not take place for six months. A spokesman said: “We have created a new specialist taskforce of digital experts who will be supporting our customers.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com