EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scottish lawmakers will debate a motion calling for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) to halt planned cuts to its branch network, which opponents say will damage the remote communities they are meant to serve.
The Edinburgh-based bank, which has been owned by the British government since being rescued during the 2008 global financial crisis, plans to close a quarter, or 259, of its branches in the United Kingdom. That includes more than a third of its branches in Scotland.
The closures will also entail 680 job cuts.
The Scottish parliamentary motion, which looks likely to garner wide support, aims to acknowledge “concern about a lack of support for small businesses, people in rural areas and the elderly,” according to a transcript filed by Scottish Labour, the third-biggest party in the Scottish assembly.
It has not yet set a date for the debate, which would put pressure on the bank to reconsider its plan if lawmakers vote in favor.
The Scottish National Party, which runs the devolved Scottish government, has said it will oppose the RBS cuts “until such time as a guarantee minimum level of service provision for essential banking services is in place”.
The Scottish government has called on the UK government to establish and enforce a guaranteed minimum level of service provision for essential banking services, recognizing the importance of continued access to banking for communities across Scotland, and across the UK.
Trade union Unite has described the bank’s decision to close 62 branches in Scotland as “morally bankrupt”.
RBS defended its decision as a necessary update of its services.
“As customers continue to change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them, so we are investing in our more popular branches and shaping our network, replacing traditional bricks and mortar branches with alternative ways to bank,” it said in a statement.
The RBS cuts mean British banks are set to close more than 1,000 branches this year, a record according to a Reuters analysis of previous announcements and academic studies, and taking branches away from low-income areas.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Susan Fenton