Bank closures a 'short, sharp shock' for customers

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin

The closures of RBS branches across Scotland will continue to be a “short, sharp shock” for customers, a policy manager has warned.

The comments were made during the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee which heard from a range of leading experts on the issue of banking closures.

Assessing the impact of the decision to shut a number of RBS branches across Scotland, Citizen’s Advice policy manager Keith Dryburgh said there were a number of challenges and called on banks to have a Universal Service Obligation similar to the Royal Mail.

The committee has been receiving feedback on RBS closures and has also held meetings in areas such as Mintlaw to gain an understanding of the impact of the closure of the last bank in town.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, a committee member, had described the move as a “watershed moment” for how people access banking and joined those giving evidence to criticise the lack of community engagement ahead of making decisions on closures.

Mr Dryburgh had warned the committee the impact of closures was an “issued that won’t go away overnight” due to the remaining demand for face-to-face banking.

He added: “Today, over the summer and Christmas, it’s going to be a huge issue.”

Earlier this year, Ms Martin joined others from the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee for a focus group in her constituency.

A number of concerns about closures in the area included from older people as well as farmers who said they would be unable to cash cheques from mart sales as easily.

Ms Martin had previously campaigned against the closure of a Clydesdale branch in Mintlaw.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said: “Analysis from Unite Scotland, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and community councils and focus groups made up of those impacted by the closures show this is an issue that will continue long after branch doors are shut.

“This doesn’t just affect a small section of society but will bring challenges right across the spectrum. Banks continue to cook the books with regard to their footfall criteria for closures. We discovered today that those accessing branches who are customers but registered at other branches don’t count in footfall figures, and regular use criteria is limited to those using a branch every week. Reasons for decision on closures are skewed and non-consultative. And in the case of majority publicly owned RBS in particular, absolutely unacceptable.”

“We will continue to fight against the closures and I look forward to welcoming a number of local representatives from across the North-East to the RBS AGM in Edinburgh.”