RBS ‘not listening to rural communities’ deep concerns’

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By Hannah O’Hanlon

The chairman of the House of Commons select committee which met to discuss the Royal Bank of Scotland’s planned closure has branded executives’ responses as ‘unsatisfactory’.

Pete Wishart said: ‘The whole committee has been left disappointed and frustrated with the unsatisfactory appearance of RBS executives at the Scottish Affairs Committee.

‘They seem to not be listening to the deep concerns from communities right across Scotland over their branch closure programme.’

It was announced in December 2017 that RBS intended to close 62 branches, a third of their total, including those in Campbeltown and Inveraray.

Publicly-owned RBS cited the increasing use of online or mobile platforms to access banking services in defence of the plans but there are still serious concerns around the impact of closures, particularly in remote, rural areas, where broadband may be poor.

The meeting was scheduled for January 17 to examine the basis for the decision to close the branches and the process behind it, and to ask what is being done to support the communities affected in the future.

Mr Wishart continued: ‘They do not seem to appreciate just how devastating the loss of a bank can be to a local community, and quite how important easy access to banking services is to individuals and businesses.

‘Nor do they appear to have any intention to reconsider their position despite the views expressed by local people, or by the witnesses we heard from today – Scottish Rural Action, Unite Scotland and Scottish Chamber of Commerce.

‘Instead they could not rule out further branch closures.’

Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara has been campaigning to halt the closures since they were announced.

During a Westminster debate on January 11, Mr O’Hara said: ‘Those ruthless closures will not only hurt local businesses and individuals; they will be hugely damaging to Argyll and Bute. We have actively promoted Argyll and Bute as a great place to live, work, raise a family and do business. These closures undermine all that hard work.

‘One would have thought that RBS, having been bailed out by the public purse to the tune of £45 billion, would display a degree of humility. Not a chance!

‘Its decision to turn its back on so many communities, particularly those where the RBS branch is the last in town, is a scandalous abdication of its social responsibility to rural Scotland and to the people who were forced to keep it afloat when it risked sinking without trace during the financial crisis.’

He continued: ‘The government should accept its responsibility and protect my constituents from the Royal Bank’s hatchet-men.’

Mr O’Hara started a petition in the affected towns at the end of December. It is still available to sign in a number of Canpbeltown shops including: McIvors and Keith’s newsagents.

Bob Stewart (right) signs MP Brendan O’Hara’s petition against the closure of RBS. 25_c51rbspetition01_BO’Hara_Bob_Stewart