MP hits out at plans to close four more Borders banks

The old Bank of Scotland branch in Melrose.
The old Bank of Scotland branch in Melrose.

Borders MP David Mundell has added his voice to criticism of the Bank of Scotland’s plans to close four more of its branches in the region.

As reported in this week’s Southern, the bank plans to follow up the closure of its Melrose branch in October last year by pulling out of West Linton too in July.

Borders MP David Mundell.

Borders MP David Mundell.

Three further branches in the region – at Newtown, Lauder and Coldsteam – are scheduled to be axed in October.

Borders MSPs Christine Grahame and John Lamont have already hit out at the plans, and now UK Government Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell is following suit.

The West Linton branch is the last remaining bank in the town, and Mr Mundell believes shutting it will be a blow for many of his rural constituents reliant on it for access to financial services.

The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP said: “I am very disappointed to hear of the plans by the Bank of Scotland to close its branch in West Linton. While usage at the branch may have dropped, the branch is very much still a lifeline for elderly residents and those without access to a car who need to have a branch on their doorstep.

“All too often, banks take these decisions without taking into account that many in areas such as West Linton don’t have easy access to internet banking.

“I will be contacting the Bank of Scotland to find out what its plans are to ensure the banking needs of people in West Linton and the surrounding communities are met in the future if the branch is indeed closed.”

West Linton’s branch is timetabled to close on Tuesday, July 4; Newtown’s on Thursday, October 19; Lauder’s on Tuesday, October 24; and Coldstream’s on Thursday, October 26.

The bank, part of Lloyds Banking Group since 2009, cites a change in the way its customers access its services as the main reason for closing the branches.

A Bank of Scotland spokeswoman said: “These closures are due to reduced or low levels of demand and, in some cases, because of a local overlap of branches.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that these changes may cause and have informed customers of the closest alternative branch.”

According to the bank, its West Linton branch, in Main Street, is now 13% less busy than it was a year ago, serving only eight regular customers weekly.

The nearest alternative branches are eight miles away in Penicuik and 13 miles distant in Peebles.

Newtown’s branch is said to be 9% quieter than a year ago, attracting just 13 regular customers a week.

Alternative branches can be found seven miles away in Galashiels, eight miles away in Selkirk and nine miles off in Jedburgh.

Lauder’s Mid Row branch – 10 miles distant from the nearest alternative branch in Galashiels’ Channel Street – is said to be 16% less busy than at this time in 2016, seeing, like West Linton’s eight regular customers weekly.

Coldstream’s High Street bank – said to be 18% quieter than a year ago, seeing 16 regular customers a week – is nine miles away from the nearest alternative branch in Kelso and 10 miles away from another in Duns.

All four Borders branches facing closure are the only banks in their towns, although Melrose – the first of five Borders towns to be hit by closures in the space of a year – is still served by the Royal Bank of Scotland.