MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the decision by RBS to keep its Gretna branch open until at least the end of 2018 – followed by an independent review.
Ms McAlpine has been lobbying RBS bosses to reverse closures in the region.
She says the decision to close the branches is a betrayal to loyal customers and communities.
RBS bosses had previously said that they would not reconsider the decision – but lobbying from the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford has softened their position.
“It is welcome news that the Gretna branch will be open until at least the end of 2018.
“The decision seems to have been made because if the Gretna branch closes, there will be no other Royal Bank branch within a nine mile radius.
“It is to the credit of SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford that RBS have softened their position on at least some closures.
“However, RBS is taxpayer owned, and it is about time the Secretary of State for Scotland was lobbying the bank to stop these closures completely.”
Notes to editors:
Statement from RBS below:
Royal Bank of Scotland listens to customers by providing additional support to customers and keeping branches open
Royal Bank of Scotland has listened and engaged with customers, communities and elected representatives from all parties and will now keep ten branches open until at least the end of 2018 and provide an additional support package for customers across Scotland. At the end of the year an independent review will be carried out of the use of these branches. The vast majority of these branches are in communities where there is no other Royal Bank branch within a nine mile radius.
As part of the package of support the Royal Bank will look to open new branches across Scotland, improve ATM accessibility for all communities affected by the closures, review opening hours of remaining branches, and work with communities to give empty branches to local community groups for free.
The total package includes:
1. Branches: We will keep ten branches open (Biggar, Beauly, Castlebay/Barra, Comrie, Douglas, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Kyle, Tongue) until at least the end of 2018. Should any of these branches see sustainable transactional increases and viable new income over this period, then we will reconsider the closure of the relevant branch as part of a full independent review.
2. Branch buildings: Where we own the building and where there is no demand for a building, we will work with development trusts and local communities to transfer ownership of a building to a community for free if there is a viable and deliverable three-year business case. As part of the proposal if the community venture fails within those three years, then the ownership of the building will remain with the Royal Bank. Where possible we will also donate all suitable branch furniture and other suitable equipment to local organisations for free.
3. Digital Access: In response to concerns over digital access we will work with a small number of communities across Scotland to support the digital adoption of contactless terminals for local Royal Bank of Scotland business customers and will seek to offer free initial contracts. We will also give free digital devices to a small number of high-use, regular branch customers affected by branch closures, who have no access to a nearby branch where they can bank online. We will also ensure access to training if necessary from our TechXperts in local areas affected. We will also work with BT and other local partners to explore improving broadband options in these local communities.
4. ATM Access: On access to ATMs we will ensure we do not remove, or will replace at a suitable nearby location, the branch ATM if there is no other free-to-use ATM within 1km of the closing branch.
5. Branch Access: We will undertake a review of the opening hours of all receiving branches to ensure that, where there is reasonable demand, they are open at appropriate times.
6. Opening New Branches: We will continue to invest in our remaining branch network and look to open branches across Scotland where it is convenient for customers and where it makes viable business sense.
7. Post Office Training and Note Fraud: In response to concerns over Post Office capability we will work with the Post Office to roll out our fraud and scams training to their franchisees. We will also supply, for free, bank-standard fraudulent note detection and cash counting machines to the nearest Post Office from a closing branch.
8. Mobile Van Service: We will review Mobile Van routes and times on a monthly basis and be open to suggestions of change from local communities or community representatives.
9. Alternative Ways to Bank: As planned we will continue to implement our strategy of providing all areas affected by branch closures with alternative ways to bank. Overall there are more ways to bank with us than ever before and, while this includes digital, it also includes face to face in Mobile Vans and through our Community Bankers, in Post Offices (where customers can withdraw cash, deposit cash and cheques, view balances and business customers can get coinage) Telephony and through our network of ATMs.
Commenting on these changes, Managing Director for Personal Banking, Jane Howard, said:
“We are committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing quality banking services. Having listened to the concerns of customers, communities and elected representatives from all political parties we have decided to keep ten branches open until at least the end of 2018. During this period we will monitor the level of transactions and new income at each branch and if there is a sustained and viable increase in both then we will reconsider the closure of the relevant branch as part of a full independent review.
“We’ll continue to invest in our branch network and services across Scotland. We provide our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – they can choose from a range of digital, to face-to-face options, including; Mobile and Online Banking, telephone banking, video banking, Community Bankers, our mobile banks on wheels, and Post Offices”.
Notes to editors:
We’re working hard to develop new services to respond to the changing needs of our customers and make banking effortless:
• Customers can bank when and where they want to using our market leading mobile app and our online banking services for both personal and business customers – we have more than 924,000 mobile users in Scotland.
• Today 7/10 customers are enrolled on our mobile banking app and /or using online banking. In 2017, to date we have processed via the mobile app:
• Almost 28m transfers;
• 20.9m payments;
• We provide 24/7 Webchat messaging, Message Us through the Mobile App, Social Media, and Telephony for those times when face to face is not needed.
• Royal Bank customers complete over 31,000 Webchats each year to answer basic queries.
• We currently have 120,000 active business customers using our Bankline platform.
• We’ve launched Free-Agent, a free cloud-based accounting software for small businesses, to help our customers keep track of their finances and report their taxes digitally. It’s easy to use, reduces errors and saves our small business customers valuable time. And with the customer’s permission, we can link it to their business bank account so we can share data for real time conversations about a loan, or another solution to help grow their business.
Face to face banking in the community
• By the end of H1 2018, 99.7% of all our customers will live within 15 minutes of a branch, a mobile branch or a Post Office location.
• The Post Office allows customers to carry out their everyday banking in over 1,400 Post Offices across Scotland – as well as via their mobile branch service.
• All Post Offices in Scotland accept deposits of cash and cheques; balance checks; withdrawals; and can provide change.
• Our fleet of 21 mobile branches in Scotland serve over 440 Scottish communities each week. At one of our mobile branches you can deposit funds; withdraw cash; businesses can deposit and withdraw cash and coin; pay bills; make balance enquiries.
• We understand our Scottish communities and are providing the right solutions for each one – Island communities are served by our flying banker; we’re keeping branches in rural and remote communities where other options aren’t sufficient (Scarinish, Lochboisdale, Sanday and Stronsay); and we’re relocating three branches in Inverness, Stirling and Hamilton by end H1 2018.
• We now have a dedicated Royal Bank TechXpert in every branch across Scotland, who support our customers with their digital journey, providing digital education and reassurance that we provide a safe and secure digital service that all our customers can use confidently.
• We are the only bank to have Community Bankers – they remain in the community when a branch closes and will get to know our customers – just like the old-fashioned Bank Manager. They will help customers with their individual financial goals and support communities to be safe and secure when managing their money.
• By the end of March 2018 we’ll have 21 Community Bankers in post across Scotland serving 63 communities.
• Our Business Growth Enablers support local business customers by providing specialist advice and events and training to support their business needs. They put businesses in touch with local experts, across the bank and through their networks in their town or city to help businesses where and when they need it most.
• Our new Video Banking service allows customers to connect to us wherever they are. Video Bankers can assist in many different ways, in a location most convenient to each customer. Services include full Financial Health Checks, opening accounts and discussing their short-term borrowing needs. This service can be accessed on a mobile or tablet, via a video connection.
• We have invested significantly in automated devices for our non-personal customers over the last four years.
• Customers can self serve through our ATMs, Business Quick Deposit Units & Cash and Deposit Machines across Scotland – 73% of our remaining branch network will have coin-in facilities and 77% will have Business Quick Deposit machines.
Courier service / at your location
• We have cash courier services with our Bank to You and Direct Cash products.