Minister calls for minimum banking services guarantee

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The Scottish government has called for a guaranteed minimum level of banking services after RBS proposed a series of branch closures.

Business minister Paul Wheelhouse has urged the UK government to take steps to ensure communities have access to day-to-day banking services.

Mr Wheelhouse said the 62 branch closures announced on Friday was a "body blow to our high streets".

The UK government said it did not interfere with commercial decisions.

Mr Wheelhouse has written to Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay about the closures, which account for more than one in three of the bank's Scottish branches and will see the loss of about 158 jobs.

In the letter, he said: "I am deeply concerned at the Royal Bank of Scotland's announcement that they are to make further deep and damaging cuts to their branch network in Scotland.

"I am sure that you will also have concern at the rate of branch closures at RBS, and NatWest. Scotland is proud of its banking heritage and has done much to build the industry globally and RBS has grown due to its ability to rely upon a loyal customer base here, through good times and bad."

Rural communities

He said the announcement of the closures would leave many communities without ready access to essential day-to-day banking services.

The cuts, he said, would affect some of the most remote rural communities and market towns, with the worst impact felt by vulnerable customers and small businesses.

Ahead of a meeting between the two governments expected on Monday, Mr Wheelhouse wrote: "I call on the UK government to establish and enforce a guaranteed minimum level of service provision for essential banking services, recognising the importance of continued access to banking for communities across Scotland, and across the UK."

He added: "The UK government, as the bank's majority shareholder, in our view, should use its influence through not agreeing to any closures in locations where no face-to-face alternatives are in place, and should require the Royal Bank of Scotland to ensure that practical and sustainable alternative banking services are put in place before any closures are signed off."

A Treasury spokeswoman said: "The decision to open and close branches is a commercial decision taken by the management team of each bank.

"The government does not intervene in these decisions. But we understand the impact that closures can have on communities and people's jobs.

"Banks must now give customers as much notice as possible when a branch is closing, and ensure they are made aware of the options they have locally to continue to access banking services."

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