Highlands and Islands MSP calls for RBS to think again on cuts to rural bank services

Highlands and Islands Scottish Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Royal Bank of Scotland to reconsider its decision drastically to reduce its banking services in the Highlands and Islands.

Ms Grant says: ‘Last year we saw RBS close branches in the north of the Highlands and Islands and now they are turning their attention to reducing opening hours in Argyll & Bute branches.

‘The bank’s claim that an increase in internet banking is affecting their branches may apply to our big cities but it is certainly not true for the rural Highlands and Islands where the poor broadband service makes internet banking difficult and unreliable.’

This is a serious and valid point.

The MSP notes: ‘These cuts have a disproportionate effect on our rural communities where the more fragile business environment and ageing population make face-to-face banking important.

‘Banks now offer a whole range of services and it is not acceptable that our rural communities are to be fobbed with a second rate service.

‘Geography should not be a determining factor in quality or range of services to a community.

‘Therefore, in my motion to the Scottish Parliament I ask that all banks, including the publicly owned RBS, provide the same service to all communities across Scotland.’

This particular plea is contradictory and may be a bit of an own goal.

It may well be said that providing the same service to all communities across Scotland is exactly what RBS is planning to do.

What the MSP is in fact saying is that banking cannot credibly propose offering a one-size-fits-all service across a county like Scotland, varying from the great post-industrial sprawl of Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city by far, to the thinly populated and widely dispersed settlements of much of the Highlands and Islands [very much including Argyll and the Isles].

Ms Grant’s parliamentary motion, however, is fortunately framed in a way that has not put it in the position of tripping itself up on appearing to ask for a single universal type of service.

It reads:  ‘That the Parliament calls on RBS to rethink its decision to reduce opening hours from August 2016 at some branches in Argyll and Bute, at Campbeltown, Bowmore on Islay and Scarinish on Tiree, after last year’s branch closures at Lochinver, Stromness, Invergordon and Lybster in the Highlands and Islands; notes that rural areas have more fragile economies and are more reliant on national banks such as RBS, and calls on the bank, which has been bailed out by the public, to reconsider its decision.’

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