The Clydesdale Bank announced this week it was closing down its branches in Stranraer and Castle Douglas, but Newton Stewart has avoided the axe.
The move has prompted South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth to launch a petition against the closures and he has asked for an urgent meeting with the company to lobby against the closure plan.
Mr Smyth said: “This announcement is a real bombshell for the communities in Dumfries and Galloway. It’s a major blow to the bank’s customers in Stranraer and Castle Douglas and will be devastating for those who will lose their job and my thoughts are very much with them and their families. There are now just two Clydesdale Banks left in the region miles apart so it is pie in the sky for the company to claim they will be able to find staff jobs elsewhere”.
“It’s another example of the centralisation agenda facing many of our rural communities where crucial local services are being lost. Of course banks need to adapt when the number of customers over the door falls. But it’s a real insult when the Clydesdale Bank issue a press statement saying this is about investing in a superior customer experience. The travel time involved to their nearest branch for customers affected now completely removes any choice for those wishing to carry out their banking in a local branch. The bank also don’t seem to understand that for many people in remote rural communities online banking is simply not possible because of poor internet access no matter how much fancy digital technology the bank’s press statement claims they have.
“The closure of the Stranraer branch will mean customers having to travel to Newton Stewart or Ayr if they want to carry out their banking in a local branch and that’s just not viable for many people. The closure will also leave a prominent building on Hanover Street sitting empty. When it is concluded that a town the size of Stranraer can’t sustain one of the major banks in Scotland then you do have to fear for the very future of high street banking everywhere outside of our cities and largest towns.
“The closure of the Castle Douglas branch following on from the closure of the branch in Dalbeattie a decade ago now means the Clydesdale Bank don’t have a single branch anywhere in the Stewartry and leaves customers having to trek to Newton Stewart or Dumfries. The message they send out to customers in rural areas is that they’re just not interested in them”.
A statement from the bank said: “The Bank continues to reshape its service offering in response to these changing needs.
“To support this transformation the Bank is committing £350m over the next two years, embracing digital innovation while continuing to invest in a more sustainable branch network to deliver a superior customer experience.
“The Bank’s first priority is to our customers and we will be working extensively with impacted customers, local communities and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the transition to their new branch is as smooth and as sensitive as possible, particularly where vulnerable customers are concerned.
“It is also the Bank’s intention to try to find roles for frontline branch staff either within other branches or elsewhere in the Bank, wherever possible.”
Clydesdale customer banking director Gavin Opperman added: “While the decision to close any branch is never an easy one, it is important that we, in line with other banks operating in the UK market, continue to respond to changes in the way customers want to bank with us.
“The changes announced today continue our journey towards a model that combines an enhanced digital platform with a right sized branch network; allowing customers to interact with us through a wide range of channels - mobile, online, telephone, in-branch - whenever and however they want.”
The Clydesdale and Yorkshire banking group have proposed the closure of 79 branches across Scotland with the loss of 400 jobs.