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A storm of protest has followed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s announcement of the imminent closure of Inveraray’s last bank.
Customers took to social media to label the move ‘a disgrace’, while Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara accused the bank of ‘hammering’ rural communities in Argyll and Bute.
In total, RBS branches across Scotland face closure by June 2018, with the loss of 165 jobs. Among the closures will be branches in Inveraray, Campbeltown and Rothesay.
The announcement comes just a year after the Bank of Scotland closed its branch in Inveraray.
The Argyllshire Advertiser approached Inveraray Community Council to ask whether RBS had consulted local people before announcing its plans. Convenor Linda Divers replied: ‘No, not a word, but it hasn’t come as a surprise. I’m just sorry for the staff losing their jobs.’
RBS – which remains 72 per cent taxpayer-owned after a government bailout – claims the number of customers using its branches nationally has fallen 44 per cent in the past five years. Bank figures show that 87 per cent of Inveraray customers already bank in other ways, with just 31 customers visiting the branch per week.
Branding the closure programme ‘unacceptable’, Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, commented: ‘The closure of the last bank in the town will add to [the town’s] difficulties and the UK government must step in to ensure access to banking is available where the market appears to be unwilling to meet its obligations.’
A spokesman for RBS told the Argyllshire Advertiser: ‘It is always a difficult decision to close branches. We did make a promise not to close branches where we were the last bank in town, but that was a long time ago, and things have changed since then.’
He continued: ‘We follow the Access to Banking Standard and we are not obliged to consult with communities. We will, over the next few months, be talking to people in Inveraray about alternative ways of banking and one possible solution is a mobile banking service.’
Brendan O’Hara undertook to spearhead a campaign – if the people of Inveraray, Campbeltown and Rothesay want one.
He said: ‘I will take every opportunity to raise this matter in parliament and if the communities are banding together on this I will champion the cause.’
He added: ‘We are trying to make progress in all sorts of areas, including addressing population decline, in Argyll and Bute, and this move by RBS hammers communities and threatens to throw the process in reverse.’