Scotland politics

RBS stands by branch closure decision

RBS in Duns
Image caption RBS is to close a third of its branches in Scotland

RBS bosses have refused to reconsider controversial branch closures despite widespread cross-party criticism.

MPs on a Westminster committee said the response to the bank's plans to shut 62 of its branches in Scotland was "overwhelmingly negative".

And they said customers in rural areas felt particularly let down.

But RBS officials insisted the bank was responding to changes in customer behaviour, including increased use of online banking.

They were appearing before MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee in the wake of RBS announcing in December that it is to close 62 branches in Scotland, with the loss of 158 jobs.

Some of the closures will see towns and villages left without any bank branches - with concerns being raised about the impact on elderly, vulnerable and small business customers, particularly in rural locations.

Committee chairman Pete Wishart told the meeting that he had not experienced such an overwhelming negative response to a single issue in his 17 years as an SNP MP.

He told the RBS representatives: "I think what's also disappointing is your defiant response to this, where you are singularly saying you are refusing to reconsider any of these closures which is going down particularly badly in a number of rural areas."

However Jane Howard, managing director of personal banking, and Les Matheson, chief executive of personal and business banking, told the committee that the closures would save the bank £9.5m annually.

But they insisted the decision had not been taken to save money.

Greater variety

Mr Matheson said said fewer than 1% of RBS customers go into a branch on a weekly basis, with a 42% reduction in branch transactions in Scotland since 2014.

And he said RBS was offering people a greater variety of ways to bank, through post offices, mobile vans and new community bankers, as well as online and in remaining branches.

Mr Matheson added: "We understand that customers are concerned about the change, that customers find change difficult, and we are committed to helping them through that process, and we have lots of ways of doing that.

"We are both personally committed, as are all of our colleagues, to helping every individual customer."

Labour's Danielle Rowley and Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine pointed out that the bank had received a £45bn taxpayer bailout during the financial crash.

Mr Matheson said: "We understand the support that the bank has had and clearly we appreciate that, but again, we have to take account of changes that are happening."