Skye man’s complaint of being turned away from an under threat RBS branch raised at PMQs

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford

A Skye man’s complaint of being turned away from an under threat RBS branch when trying to open new bank accounts has been raised at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Press and Journal has backed communities fighting to stop the closure of 62 Scottish RBS branches with the Save Our Banks campaign, which has won cross-party support from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird.

RBS backtracked last month and gave a temporary reprieve to 10 branches, including in Kyle, subject to attracting new customers before the end of the year.

But when Angus Sutherland, of Broadford, tried to open multiple new RBS accounts, including personal and business accounts, he was told not to go to the threatened Kyle of Lochalsh branch nine miles and a 15 minute drive away but to Portree – 26 miles and a 35 minute drive away.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised the issue at PMQS and said the bank had behaved in an “alarming” manner by putting “road blocks in the way” of potential customers.

“We have pledged to do all we can to encourage people to use the banks but RBS appears to be putting road blocks in the way,” he said. “If they are discouraging people from using those same branches it makes it very difficult to get to a situation where the branches are sustainable.

“We have got very clear evidence here they are not making it easy for people to open accounts, which raises important questions about what they are up to. It is alarming and unhelpful.

“It is outrageous RBS is undermining the ability of these branches to stay open.”

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Mr Balckford asked Theresa May if she would now act given the new information and call in RBS chief executive Ross McEwan to “tell him this behaviour must end”.

Mrs May responded: “It is not right for him to suggest the Government should be telling people where to have their bank accounts and how to hold them.

“There are commercial decisions for banks on bank branches, and there are decisions for individual customers on their own banking arrangements.”

An RBS spokesman denied the bank would turn customers away but did not refute Mr Sutherland’s specific complaint about being turned away from the threatened branch.

He said: “New and existing customers can visit any Royal Bank of Scotland branch to open an account, or just to speak to one of our colleagues about their banking needs.

“Our larger branches offer appointments at set times, while smaller branches operate a drop in policy.

“We would not discourage members of the public from using any branch and this weekend we will be hosting events throughout Scotland highlighting all of the ways our customers can bank with us”.