More than 1,000 people a day are continuing to sign the on-line petition against the Royal Bank of Scotland’s attempt to undermine the Isle of Barra’s economy and wellbeing as a community by closing its only bank branch.
At 5am today (Wednesday December 6) the total passed 7,500.
And protests continued in the Scottish Parliament.
Meanwhile critics point out that the Royal Bank is punishing the weakest parts of society for its own failings. Ten years ago – as the biggest bank in the world - it lost billions of £s of customers’ money as the financial system melted down because of unwise investments by itself and other banks. Then RBS took billions more £s from the UK Government - that is taxpayers money – to avoid the collapse of the banking system. The UK Government has tried to get the money back partly by savings on benefits to the sick and the jobless – and now the Royal Bank is removing face-to-face banking services from those most dependent on them…in order to cut its own costs to continue paying back those same debts.
The future of Barra’s only bank branch was raised in the Scottish Parliament during a session of Topical Questions on Tuesday December 5 as part of concern over RBS’s overall programme to reduce the number of branches by 62 across Scotland.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, Donald Cameron, asked the Scottish Government “what reassurances could be provided to communities such as Barra whose RBS branch is under threat, and who are particularly vulnerable to closure of services.”
Donald Cameron MSP said: “I am deeply concerned at the prospect of a series of bank closures across the Highlands and Islands, and in particular the fact that islanders on Barra will now have no bank branch at all.
“Situations like this always affect the most vulnerable people who rely on face-to-face contact and assistance, and therefore it is incumbent upon all parties to come together and find a solution so that a whole island is not deprived of such a vital service.”
And Kate Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch highlighted the impact this will have on communities across Scotland and also asked the Scottish Government to raise the matter with the UK Government.
The prospect of RBS closures in Aviemore, Beauly, Kyle and Mallaig come less than a year after the Bank of Scotland shut its premises in Beauly, Broadford, Fortrose and Kingussie.
Speaking afterwards, Kate Forbes said: “In light of the news that Royal Bank of Scotland intends to close 62 branches across Scotland, I thought it was vital that constituents’ concerns were raised in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.
“The state owns a 71 per cent stake in RBS on behalf of taxpayers, like those most affected by this news.
“In my own constituency of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, there will be closures in Kyle, Mallaig, Beauly and Aviemore.
“As banks abandon the Highlands, this will have an adverse impact on elderly customers, cash-based businesses and rural communities.”
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch added: “I heard of one person who travels an hour from Applecross to the branch in Kyle.
“Now that RBS intends to close the RBS branch in Kyle, he will have to travel a further hour to Portree or two hours to Dingwall or Inverness.”
Following the initial wave of protest week, RBS has indicated that it would keep the ATM in place in Castlebay, but that the branch itself would close in June 2018. It suggests the use of its mobile banking service – although its closest approach to Barra at present is a ten minute slot on the Isle of Eriskay once a week.. Or using the nearest available cash machines in Daliburgh and Lochboisdale in South Uist and Creagorry on Benbecula. RBS appear oblivious to the ferry journeys involved!