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Saving Barra bank is a ‘victory for common sense’

MP Angus MacNeil
MP Angus MacNeil

Barra’s only bank has been saved in what has been called “a victory for common sense”.

The Castlebay RBS branch is one of only two on the list to remain open, alongside Biggar in South Lanarkshire.

A major campaign took place to save Barra’s bank, with almost 12,000 people signing a petition in support of it.

Yesterday there was a “fantastic atmosphere” in Castlebay after the news broke.

Business owner Pauline Bari, who runs the Kisimul Cafe in Castlebay, said: “I’m just absolutely delighted. I walked into the bank to congratulate them and they are all really happy and going to be celebrating this weekend. It’s absolutely fantastic.

“It means everything for the business community. I drove over to Barra from Castlebay and there was a fantastic atmosphere about the place.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “This is indeed very good news for the Isle of Barra and a victory for common sense.

“I am pleased that the Johnston Carmichael review agreed that there are exceptional circumstances in Barra which means that this branch should remain open and that the RBS have accepted this recommendation.

“I am delighted for RBS customers and the staff in Barra who provide such a valuable service. A cloud has been lifted from the island economy and now visitors and locals alike will keep proper bank services on Barra.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan added: “This is a fantastic victory for the people of Barra. The proposal to shut the only bank on the island, leaving the nearest bank a ferry journey away, was always ill thought out, and provoked a reaction in the community and in Parliament.

“RBS would not have been forced into reversing their decision were it not for local campaigners very successfully highlighting the obvious injustice of what was being proposed. The fact that 12,000 people—10 times the population of Barra—signed a petition demanding that RBS keep the branch open underlines this point.

“People and businesses in Barra now have local banking services secured for the immediate future. However, it has taken us more than nine months and a huge amount of negative publicity for RBS to finally see sense on this issue. They will have a hard time convincing people they have the islands’ best interests at heart. We need to remain vigilant if we are to protect banking services across the islands.”

Last month the UK Treasury Minister John Glen visited to hear how the closure would have impacted on the island.

RBS caused controversy by sending a mobile bank van to Castlebay despite the branch being given a reprieve until the end of the year. The service was suspended in July because of low usage, lack of ferry capacity and local hostility towards staff on some occasions.

Angry islanders had said the “needless” van was using up vital ferry spaces.

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