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Scottish Government withholds information about meetings with RBS

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The chief executive of RBS has been told to appear before MPs to answer questions on closure plans.

The Scottish Affairs Committee wants to quiz Ross McEwan on proposals to shut 62 RBS banks across Scotland and plans for a partial reprieve for 10 of these.

In a letter, committee convener Pete Wishart said the committee is “disappointed” Mr McEwan has not “meaningfully engaged” with previous requests to set a date to appear.

It adds: “Should you not respond positively to this letter the committee will have no alternative but to consider using its formal powers to summon you to appear before it.”

Questions the committee wants answered include how RBS would respond to a request from the government, as a majority shareholder, to reconsider the closures.

They also want to know why RBS decided to delay the closures of some branches due to shut in May, why this did not cover other branches and how the performance of branches given a six-month extension to prove viability will be judged.

The committee also requests details of the conversations RBS had with the UK and Scottish governments after the closure decision.

And today, the Press and Journal can reveal details of meetings between the Scottish Government and RBS have been withheld from the public.

The SNP has joined other political parties in signing up to the Press and Journal’s Save our Banks campaign, supporting communities fighting to save branches in …

But the Scottish Government has refused to give details of meetings between ministers and bank executives – instead releasing only details of four meetings between December 2017 and February 2018.

A Scottish Government spokesman said further detail was exempt as there were plans to release it next month.

He said: “The exemption… allows public authorities to refuse to disclose information if they already plan to publish it within the next 12 weeks, but only if it is reasonable to delay disclosing the information until the planned date of publication.

“In this instance, the document in question will be published prior to 25 April 2018.”

There were three meetings between RBS executives and Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse on December 1 and 13 and on February 6 with Economy Secretary Keith Brown.

There was also a meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board (FiSAB) on December 19.

However, details about the meetings will not be revealed until next month.

The Scottish Affairs Committee meanwhile said there were “issues” members wanted to explore with Mr McEwan, as the person “ultimately responsible for decisions made by RBS”.

Last night, RBS reiterated that the closures are in response to changes, including increased digital banking.

An RBS spokeswoman said: “We would like to thank Mr Wishart for his latest correspondence and we can confirm that Ross McEwan will appear before the Scottish Affairs Committee.

“We have engaged fully with the committee and provided very detailed responses both in person and in writing. We look forward to continuing a positive dialogue with the committee and providing further answers as required.”

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