A remote Highland branch of a leading bank shut its doors for the last time yesterday amid claims that it had been closed “by stealth”.
RBS blamed the closure of its branch at Kinlochleven in Lochaber on “limited customer use”.
But local people believe the banking giant made the closure inevitable when it reduced its opening hours to just four hours a week on a Thursday afternoon.
Councillor Andrew Baxter said he had been disappointed, but not at all surprised, when he heard it was closing.
He said: “When they went through the previous round of closures, they moved many branches, like Kinlochleven, down to a part-time branch.
“I was always suspicious that was so they could claim they were keeping village branches open while, in reality, they were reducing the hours to a level that it was inevitable that usage would drop, which would give them an excuse to close it.”
Mr Baxter added that closure of the branch would be inconvenient for local people – especially older people who may not use internet banking.
An RBS spokeswoman said closing the branch had been a “difficult decision”, but she pointed out that it was only open for four hours a week and had “limited usage”.
She said: “Across our whole branch network, there has been a 30% drop in branch transactions since 2010 as people do their banking where and when it is convenient for them, whilst online and mobile transactions have grown by over 200%.
“We expect these trends to continue as more and more of our customers bank with us through our mobile app, by online and telephone and through our upgraded ATM network.”
She added that customers would be able to withdraw cash, check balances and make deposits free of charge at the village post office.