Fury at RBS branch closure proposals

RBS are closing 62 branches, including the only existing bank on the Isle of Barra.
RBS are closing 62 branches, including the only existing bank on the Isle of Barra.

News that the Bonnyrigg and Penicuik branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland are among 62 in Scotland under threat of closure has sparked anger.

The plans would leave Midlothian with only one RBS branch, in Dalkeith. The bank has said more customers are accessing services online or with mobile devices. The Bonnyrigg branch is to close on May 24 while the Penicuik branch would shut on June 28.

The RBS branch in Bonnyrigg High St which is earmarked for closure.

The RBS branch in Bonnyrigg High St which is earmarked for closure.

The news comes despite our report last year in which Scottish Government figures predicted that Midlothian will be the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland in the next quarter of a century.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame has demanded that the bank reconsiders plans to close their Penicuik branch and has written to RBS asking for an urgent meeting on the future of the local service.

She said: “This is very disappointing news for both customers and particularly for staff who will now be worried about their future so close to Christmas.

“Local banking services are vital to communities in Midlothian, and many people are still dependent on high street services, including local businesses for paying in cash and so forth – this is a lifeline service for some. It is extremely important that the banks listen to the needs of customers in Penicuik and recognise that there is a continued need for face-to-face provision as well as cash withdrawal and deposit machines.

The RBS branch in Penicuik (John Street) which is earmarked for closure.

The RBS branch in Penicuik (John Street) which is earmarked for closure.

“I have written to RBS to seek an urgent meeting on the future of these local services and hope that they will think again on this closure.” Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie (SNP), joined forces with local councillor Dianne Alexander (SNP)to condemn the Royal Bank of Scotland for announcing the imminent closure of its Bonnyrigg Branch.

He said: “While RBS have a need to maximise their profit it should not be at the expense of local services. I will be seeking a meeting with RBS to discuss this proposal.”

Cllr Alexander added “The nearest branch of RBS will now be Dalkeith, which is a considerable inconvenience to the people of Bonnyrigg.

“Big banks seem to be reducing their branches at an ever increasing rate to the extent that they may well become irrelevant to the communities they serve.”

Advertiser readers also revealed their anger when we broke the news last Friday.

Commenting on the Advertiser Facebook page, Michael Kampff said: “Fifteen years ago if you went to the Penicuik branch you had to queue, now there is rarely anyone else there. Trouble is that for the few times you do need it there is no real alternative.”

Jane Macleod said: “A lot of personal banking is done online and by telephone. But what about the business banking? What are they going to do? Businesses need to take their takings to the bank on a daily basis?!?”

Fiona McLuckie added: “What about the people who can’t do online banking? A bit unfair to close both Penicuik and Bonnyrigg. Been with RBS for over 30 years if one of these close I’m not going to Dalkeith will change bank instead!”

An RBS spokesman said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile. Since 2012 the number of customers using our branches in Scotland has fallen by 44 per cent. Only one per cent of our customers in Scotland now use a branch regularly while the number of mobile users has increased by 39 per cent since 2015.

“We expect these closures to result in around 158 redundancies. We realise this is difficult news and we are doing everything we can to support those affected.

“We will ensure compulsory redundancies are kept to an absolute minimum.”