Royal Bank of Scotland is to close 259 branches – a quarter of its network – with the loss of 680 jobs, the state-backed lender has announced.
The group, which remains more than 70% owned by the taxpayer after its rescue during the financial crisis, said 62 locations in Scotland under its RBS brand would shut, as well as 197 NatWest sites.
It blamed the decision, which followed a review of its branch network, on the increasing shift to online and mobile banking.
But trade union Unite accused the bank of “decimating” the network and “betraying communities”.
RBS said that since 2014 the number of customers using branches had fallen by 40% and mobile transactions had increased by 73%.
It said more than five million customers now used its mobile banking app and one in five only bank with RBS digitally.
The bank said it was seeking to manage job losses on a voluntary basis and keep and keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
It said it was “committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing high quality banking services”, pointing to its fleet of mobile branches and contract with the Post Office.
Unite claimed that the closures would result in 1,000 staff losing their jobs.
The trade union’s national office Rob MacGregor said: “Now serious questions need to be asked about whether these closures mark the end of branch network banking.”This announcement will forever change the face of banking in this country resulting in over a thousand staff losing their jobs and hundreds of high streets without any banking facilities.”
High street banks have been cutting swathes of branches over the last few years as customers move online.
But the trend has prompted fears for communities being left without a bank in their town and those unfamiliar with the developments of the digital age being cut adrift.
RBS had already in March this year announced the closure of 158 branches with the loss of 500 jobs.
Scotland’s Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the latest announcement was “hugely concerning” and that the worst-hit customers would be “the most vulnerable members of society, for many of whom going into a branch is the only feasible way to conduct their banking”.