The announcement today )Friday September 28th) that the Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland has been saved is good news for the people of Barra, says local MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.
Mr MacNeil has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the Castlebay Branch and secured and hosted a visit to Barra by the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP.
Angus said: “This is indeed very good news for the Isle of Barra and a victory for common sense.
“I am pleased that the Johnston Carmichael review agreed that there are exceptional circumstances in Barra which means that this branch should remain open and that the RBS have accepted this recommendation.”
“I am delighted for RBS customers and the staff in Barra who provide such a valuable service.
"A cloud has been lifted from the island economy and now visitors and locals alike will keep proper bank services on Barra.”
Earlier Johnston Carmichael, the accountancy and business advisory firm, published its independent review of 10 branches earmarked for
closure by Royal Bank of Scotland.
Royal Bank of Scotland announced in December 2017 that it would close a number of branches across the UK. In June 2018, it appointed Johnston
Carmichael to conduct an independent review of ten of the bank’s Scottish branches which had been earmarked for closure. These branches
were selected for review because they were almost all the last branch in town and more than nine miles from the nearest alternative Royal Bank of
The Johnston Carmichael review team received more than 1000 representations and spoke to a significant number of branch customers,
bank staff, elected representatives, and groups representing a range of interests including those customers with disabilities and considered
The report recommends that eight branches of the 10 should close as planned, with two branches remaining open. Where a branch has been
recommended for closure, in most cases, Johnston Carmichael has suggested a number of important additional measures which could be taken
by Royal Bank to enhance the quality and accessibility of alternative banking facilities.
The two that will remain open are Biggar and Castlebay. Beauly, Comrie, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Tongue, Douglas and Kyle of Lochalsh are still to close.
Sandy Manson, chief executive of Johnston Carmichael, said: “We understand there will be considerable disappointment in those
communities where we have recommended that a branch should close.
"After careful consideration, Castlebay on Barra and Biggar are two branches that we have recommended should remain open
due to the number of different reasons as set out in our report. One of the most important factors we considered in our review was the
suitability of accessible alternatives to the services currently provided by the local branch. Each branch had its own unique set of
circumstances and this meant that we had to carefully and sensitively consider each branch on a case-by-case basis.
“Our main focus throughout this review was to determine the likely impact of a particular branch closure on the local community affected.
The Johnston Carmichael review team visited each branch earmarked for closure twice (excluding Castlebay which was visited once due to
"Firstly, informal visits were made to the majority of branches between June 29 and July 10 2018 and secondly, formal visits
were made to each branch during August in order to speak to local customers and other stakeholders and to assess the quality of the
alternative banking services available outwith each branch.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said he welcomed a “belated climbdown” by RBS. “This is a fantastic victory for the people of Barra. The proposal to shut the only bank on the island, leaving the nearest bank a ferry journey away, was always ill thought out, and provoked a reaction in the community and in Parliament.
“RBS would not have been forced into reversing their decision were it not for local campaigners very successfully highlighting the obvious injustice of what was being proposed. The fact that 12,000 people—10 times the population of Barra—signed a petition demanding that RBS keep the branch open underlines this point.
“People and businesses in Barra now have local banking services secured for the immediate future. However, it has taken us more than 9 months and a huge amount of negative publicity for RBS to finally see sense on this issue. They will have a hard time convincing people they have the islands’ best interests at heart. We need to remain vigilant if we are to protect banking services across the islands.”