A major bank has been accused of leaving the north and north-east “out in the cold” after it announced plans to close 17 stores and axe dozens of jobs.
Aberdeen is to lose seven more banks, as TSB aims to reduce its Scottish footprint by more than half by the end of next year.
The Spanish-owned chain currently has 37 branches in the north and north-east; with two – in Insch and Grantown – never to open their doors again.
Affected staff were told their jobs were at risk yesterday, with the remaining closures to begin in January.
In Aberdeen, communities in Bucksburn, Culter, Dyce, Kincorth, Mannofield, St Machar and Torry will lose their local branch.
Across Aberdeenshire, TSB wants to ends its permanent presence in Aboyne, Alford, Banchory, Huntly and Turriff too.
In the Highlands, branches in Dingwall, Nairn and Wick have all been earmarked for closure as well.
The high street brand plans 73 closures across Scotland – resulting in 300 job losses overall – by the end of 2021.
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban, whose Badenoch and Strathspey ward will lose its Grantown branch immediately, said: “Yet again people in the Highlands have to bear the brunt of banking cuts.
“Despite the many millions of pounds pumped in to the banking sector by taxpayers during the financial crash profits clearly mean more to them than serving their customers.
“So much for previous promises to keep branches open.
“Face to face banking remains really important to many people including small business users and these closures are yet another nail in the coffin of our rural economy.”
The announcement is the latest blow to those relying on banking on the high street, with a raft of closures across the region in recent years.
Royal Bank Of Scotland set about closing 17 branches in the north and north-east as part of a programme of 60 back in 2018 – prompting The P&J’s Save Our Banks campaign, which was backed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
In the past months, Clydesdale Bank has ended its presence in Dingwall and Dyce and TSB vacated its Tain store.
Last night, north-east Conservative MSP Peter Chapman said it was “extremely concerning” more would follow, adding: “I’m angered TSB is leaving its customers out in the cold – this decision will have a devastating impact on communities across the north-east.
“While I understand that banking patterns have changed, branches provide a much-needed service and not everyone can use internet banking, especially where internet coverage is poor, and where customers are wary of online systems.
“Residents still rely on high street banks for help, advice or simply cashing money in or out and this announcement is a huge blow for the region, especially rural communities.”
Last year, a report prepared by MPs on the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee highlighted 403 closures since 2015 – 79 of those in the Highlands and north-east.
As other high street banks have in the past, TSB blamed a “significant change in customer behaviour” for the decision, claiming 4,000 people a day sign up for its mobile banking app.
Announcing the closures, bosses promised to invest in remaining banks over the next two years and introduce 50 mobile advisers to serve rural areas.
Robin Bulloch, TSB customer banking director, said: “These decisions are the most difficult we take, but we must always be guided by our customers – and we are clearly witnessing a substantial shift towards digital banking.
“We operate a more extensive branch network than most other banks in Scotland, including some much larger than TSB, and we need to reduce its size to reflect the changing needs of our customers and a fast-evolving operational environment.”
Across the UK, the bank will cut around 900 jobs and close 164 branches.
‘These closures could not have come at a worse time’
Furious politicians and union leaders have demanded meetings with TSB bosses in an effort to soften the blow of planned closures.
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart and Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn are among the SNP parliamentarians pushing for an urgent summit to protect jobs.
Mr Stewart said: “This is an incredibly short-sighted decision and at a time when many are feeling isolated, a face-to-face banking service in the local community is indispensable for my constituents.
“As always with bank closures, it is local businesses and older people that are hit the hardest so I have requested a meeting with TSB bosses regarding the future of services in the area.
“The picture of bank closures across this city is grim and TSB need to rethink this decision to allow our communities to fully recover from this pandemic.”
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, Edward Mountain, is also calling for the bank to look after its 300 staff affected by the closures, and find new roles for as many as possible.
He told The P&J: “These bank closures could not have come at a worse time.
“Redeployment must be a priority but redundancies must be treated with care and compassion.”
Union leaders said it was a “dark day”, with Unite urging a rethink of plans which “beggar belief” amid the pandemic for staff who “deserve more”.