RBS closure of 62 branches '˜morally bankrupt', says Unite
A union has described a bank's decision to close 62 branches as 'morally bankrupt'.
Unite Scotland said the Royal Bank of Scotland has reneged on its promises to keep branches in rural areas open and has called on the Scottish Government to force the bank to change course.
Mary Alexander, deputy Scottish secretary of Unite, has written to Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy.
She wrote: “Some years ago - during a previous closure programme - the directors of RBS made a pledge that they would never close one of their branches when it was ‘the last bank in town’.
“They have long ago reneged on that promise.
“They say they are the Royal Bank for Scotland. Tell that to the folk in Bannockburn, Beauly, Biggar, Carnwath, Castlebay, Corrie, Douglas Lanarkshire, Gretna, Inveraray, Kilwinning, Melrose, Stepps, Tongue.
“The plans are not actually about inefficient, under-used services for the most part.
“They are about money, and making more of it for RBS shareholders. We actually believe RBS is morally bankrupt.”
The union said it also believed the bank had failed in its duty to consult local communities affected by potential closures.
Ms Alexander noted: “The directors and executives of RBS are obligated to consult with local communities about local branch closures.
“Whether this has actually been done across Scotland, seems at this stage to be at least open to serious question.
“The public outrage which is developing in local communities as the closure programme comes to light seems to attest to that.”
Mr Wheelhouse said: “I would, of course, be happy to meet with Unite to discuss the impact of closures on staff and customers and their ideas for addressing the closures.
“However, given that the relevant legal and regulatory powers over banking remain reserved to the UK Government and the UK Government also owns a controlling shareholding in RBS, I would seek to discuss with Unite what pressure we can jointly put on the UK Government to use its position to act in the interests of customers, communities and businesses that will be affected by branch closures.
“I have already spoken with senior management at RBS on Friday, and will seek support for a joint meeting with the UK Government and RBS, as a matter of urgency, when I discuss the issues with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury.”
A spokeswoman for RBS said the majority of branches closing in Scotland (72%) would have either a community banker or mobile branch stop available.
She said: “We have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months.
“This has been done in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them.
“Customers will also have a range of alternative ways to bank, including: online and mobile for simple transactions, telephony, and webchat for assisted help and the Post Office for face to face interactions.”
An independent review of the Access to Banking protocol in 2016 aimed to minimise the impact of bank branch closures on customers and local communities.
The spokeswoman for RBS added: “According to the Access to Banking Standard banks are not required to consult with communities before announcing a closure as Unite suggest.”