The Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is listed to close next summer, at the peak of the tourist season, leaving Isles of Barra and Vatersay without a bank branch or a cash machine.
It is one of 62 branches set to be closed by the Royal Bank across Scotland. The bank announced this morning that the branch would close on 14 June 2018.
Protests have come from the UK Government as Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said: “I am very disappointed to hear of the plans by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close so many of their branches across Scotland. This is a serious issue for the communities they serve. While usage of branches may have dropped, they are still a lifeline for many people, especially in rural areas. I'll be seeking a meeting with the senior leadership of RBS to discuss these closures as a matter of urgency."
RBS says: "Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use Royal Bank of Scotland Castlebay branch change dramatically, with now 86% of customers already banking in other ways locally. Transactions in Castlebay branch have reduced by 43% since 2012 with now only 11 customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis."
They point out that they have a national agreement with the Post Office "to provide our customers with a range of banking services. Customers can pay money in, take money out, check balances and business customers can get coinage" and there is a Post Office close by. The nearest alternative ATM is listed as 15.4 miles away - but this is in Daliburgh, South Uist - across the ferry to Eriskay!
Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and local Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Councillor Donald Manford have hit out at the decision. The MSP has written to RBS to ask that they reconsider their decision.
Angus MacNeil MP said; “I am calling on RBS to come to Barra for a public meeting, they simply cannot close this branch. If RBS continue these proposed savage cuts across the country they should drop Scotland from their name as they would be trading under a very false impression.”
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “This decision is going to cause real problems for people in Barra, particularly the elderly and the more vulnerable. It is bad enough that people in Barra and Vatersay will be unable to have face-to-face contact with their bank, other than by possible occasional visits by a mobile van, but RBS also will be withdrawing their cash machine, the only one on the island.
“It shows the depth of RBS’s lack of understanding of island circumstances that their email announcing the branch closure stated there are still ‘a number of free to use cash machines in your area’, before listing cash machines in South Uist, which people in Barra would have to take a ferry to use
“People have come to expect that it’s possible in the modern world to get cash after 5pm, so this move represents a significant diminution in the services available to the public in Barra.
“RBS is 73% owned by the UK taxpayer, yet they seem to have taken no account of the public or common good in reaching this decision. I have urged the Bank to take stock of the devastating impact this could have and commit to keeping the branch open.”
Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas Councillor Donald Manford said: “This shocking announcement will have considerable implications for the financial provision of the island.
“There has been no indication that this was under consideration and it is completely unacceptable that a bank largely owned by the UK taxpayer can behave in such a manner.
“I call on the Royal Bank of Scotland engage immediately with their island customers and businesses to find a way to ensure that the island isn’t deprived of essential financial services.”