RBS bank closures are a “blow” to local economy

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The closure of three RBS branches in Aberdeenshire has been described as “a blow to the local economy” and high streets.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) announced yesterday (Thursday) that it was closing three branches in rural Aberdeenshire - Banchory, Westhill and Stonehaven.

The Banchory branch will close on September 28 and the Westhill branch will shut on October 3 with Stonehaven shutting on October 2.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called the closures “a blow to local economy”.

Catherine Ward, development manager for FSB in Aberdeenshire, said: “This closure comes at a time when small firms across Scotland are already struggling to access banking services.

“Increased reliance on limited Post Office facilities and poor broadband connectivity have seriously impacted the ability of small businesses to bank effectively. This hurts their productivity, their profitability, and ultimately, the local economy.

“With the branches closing, cash handling business owners will find themselves driving long distances in order to bank their takings. This presents both a personal security risk and takes them away from their businesses for long periods of time, thus harming their productivity.”

Banchory and Mid Deeside Councillor Karen Clark, who banks with RBS, went into the branch in Banchory yesterday morning where staff told her that it was closing down in September.

She said: “This announcement will come as a shock for the community. Yet again here is an example of the banks treating their customers with contempt.

“I would have thought that RBS would at least have done some form of community engagement to inform local councillors beforehand and be courteous to let us know of their plans but ordinary folk don’t seem to matter now to these banks and yet many of us have been loyal customers for years.

“This will be a serious blow to the High Street.

“I don’t know what the plans are for the staff but that is jobs lost in Banchory, people’s lives affected and the loss of these jobs will have an impact on our local economy.

“The bank is in a prominent position in the High Street and its loss will be sorely felt.

“I feel sorry for elderly people who use the bank and who rely on the friendly faces behind the counter to help them. Many of this older age group do not bank online so they will struggle.

“I suspect people will just switch to a different bank altogether now because travelling into Aberdeen is not an option.

“The way the Royal Bank of Scotland has handled this is disgraceful but it is sadly what we have come to expect of these big anonymous banks.

“There may be the offer of some kind of mobile banking service to their customers but most people will see this as a second class service anyway.”

SNP Councillor for Westhill and District David Aitchison is calling on the Royal Bank of Scotland to show loyalty to communities which have supported the bank through its difficult times.

Cllr Aitchison has said the bank should “pause and reconsider” the decision to close the Westhill Branch.

He said: “There is clearly concern in Westhill about the decision of RBS to close its Westhill branch. We are all aware of the growth and convenience of online and digital banking but many people in our community still value the personal face to face service at a local branch.

“Westhill is an economically vibrant town of close to 12,000 people which is both regionally and nationally significant. If RBS can close the branch here they can do it anywhere.

“I will be calling on RBS and the UK Government as the major shareholder in the bank to pause and reconsider this decision and show some loyalty to the local communities who supported RBS through difficult times.”

Customers at all three branches will be diverted to RBS’s base at Aberdeen’s Queens Cross and the bank will offer a mobile branch in all three affected places,

Stuart Donaldson MP has hit out at RBS for closing the three branches in his West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency.

He said: “It’s only a few months since the Clydesdale Bank announced their round of closures and, once again, it seems that banks are abandoning rural communities.

“This news is very bad for my constituents who rely on face to face banking.

“Some of my constituents may have to travel up to an hour on public transport to have the chance to speak to their ‘local’ branch.

“The fact that we are diverting customers from all three branches to the same one in Aberdeen could also make it very hard to get a face-to-face appointment to discuss more complex banking requirements.

“I’m slightly heartened by fact that RBS are proposing to offer a mobile branch service and will offer training to customers for online and telephone banking.

“I would urge any of my constituents with any concerns on these closures to contact me and I will relay their concerns to RBS.

“I hope other banks who are planning to keep their branches open in these areas will consider how they can encourage customers to switch to them as we need to keep banking a local as possible.”

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald believes as RBS is a publicly-owned bank it should be able to provide a public service to communities throughout the North-east, not just in Aberdeen city centre.

He said: “It is particularly disappointing that branches in Westhill, Banchory and Stonehaven are facing closure. These are busy towns with thriving local economies and there should be more than enough business for a local branch to remain viable. If RBS will not maintain local branches here, then where will they?

“The increase in online banking is cited by RBS as the reason for these closures, but many elderly people still rely on their local branch for their everyday banking needs.

“They will now have to travel into Aberdeen if they want to visit their local branch, something which is just not practical for many customers.

“I will be writing to the chief executive of RBS to ask what consultation was carried out with the local communities in Westhill, Banchory and Stonehaven before making this decision.”

North-east Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles added: “This is no way to treat people in the rural North-east. When RBS closed the Alford branch they told people to move their local branch to Westhill – now they are closing that too.

“The people of Banchory, Stonehaven and Westhill must be livid. This is very poor business practice and shows a complete disregard for people living and working in rural communities.

“RBS have the gall to call themselves the Bank ‘for’ Scotland. Perhaps they mean ‘for’ urban Scotland? I for one will be suggesting to people that if they no longer have easy access to a local branch they should switch to another bank altogether.”