THE announcement that Virgin Money is to close its branches across some of Scotland’s most remote communities has been met with outrage.

Unite the union hit out at the “shameful” and “bizarre” decision to close a dozen branches across the country, and estimated that more than 70 staff would lose their jobs as a result.

The SNP called on the bank to reconsider the decision which they said would “devastate” local communities.

In Scotland, the 12 branches earmarked for closure are Airdrie, Banchory, Broughty Ferry, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Galashiels, Milngavie, Musselburgh, Oban, Portree, Stenhousemuir and Wick.

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Virgin Money will also close 19 branches in England, despite having reported pre-tax profits of £72 million for the six months to March 31, 2021.

Unite said that the group’s interim pre-tax profits had more than doubled to £245m from £120m a year ago.

Brendan O'Hara, the SNP MP for Argyll and Bute, called on Virgin to rethink the decision to shut more than a fifth of its 55 Scottish locations, saying that this would sometimes mean “closing the last bank in town”.

He went on: “The decision will devastate many who rely on their local branch during an already very difficult time - including my constituents in Oban.

"Older and vulnerable groups will be hit particularly hard by this decision. Many people are unable to use online services, or would struggle to travel to the next town to do their banking.

"Local banks also provide a footfall on high streets which other businesses rely on - now more than ever.”

The National: Anum Qaisar-Javed

His calls were joined by his colleague Neil Gray MSP, who said he and Anum Qaisar-Javed (above), the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, would seek an “urgent meeting” with Virgin about the closures.

“Some of the staff have been there for almost 20 years yet are facing redundancy while the country is still in the grips of Covid recovery,” Gray added.

Unite industrial officer Debbie Hutchings said Virgin Money had “abandoned all social responsibility” with the decision to close the branches.

She went on: “The proposed closure of twelve Virgin Money branches across Scotland is not only shameful but bizarre, as the group has just about completed the rebranding exercise of the former Clydesdale branches.”

The proposed closures come as the Virgin Group is completing the process of rebranding the former Clydesdale branches with new signs alongside the mobile banking app.

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In 2018, Virgin Money acquired the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Group (CYBG) in a £1.7 billion takeover which Unite then warned could result in a 16 per cent reduction in the combined workforce.

Hutchings continued: “The announcement will disproportionately impact on workers and communities across Scotland, and it is here where the Virgin Group axe will fall the hardest.

“Island communities from Portree to rural towns such as Wick are going to be left behind by Virgin Money. Our nation’s town centres from Cumbernauld to Musselburgh will be further hollowed out as fewer people will come into town if there is no bank branch.

“This will directly hit the businesses that remain on the high street.”

Announcing the closures, Fergus Murphy, group customer experience director at Virgin Money, said: “As our customers change the way they want to bank with us and conduct fewer transactions in-store, we must continue to evolve the role of our stores into places where we showcase our products and bring our digital services to life.”

Virgin Money said that each store was assessed on an individual basis, with careful consideration of the impact on the local area, the needs of vulnerable customers and the accessibility of alternative services such as free-to-use ATMs and the Post Office.

They said that all of the closing stores are located less than a third of a mile away from the nearest Post Office, where customers can go for day‐to-day banking, including cash deposits and withdrawals, cheque deposits and balance inquiries, as well as coin exchange.