SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford is hopeful of a breakthrough in talks aimed at saving axe-threatened RBS branches from closure.

He said yesterday that “productive” talks with bank bosses were moving in a “positive” direction.

“These talks are ongoing but I hope that we are very close to a resolution that can give some hope to a number of communities that Royal Bank of Scotland branches can remain open,” Blackford told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme.

The state-owned bank has announced proposals to close 62 branches in Scotland, including some in remote communities. RBS has insisted it is responding to changes in customer behaviour, including a rise in digital banking.

But Blackford said many of the affected branches provided “vital” local services, as he accused the Tory Government of “failing to lift a finger” to save them.

He went on to reveal that he has been “bypassing” Prime Minister Theresa May by talking directly to RBS chiefs about the plans, in a bid to ensure community concerns are heard. The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber has repeatedly pressed May on the closures at Prime Minister’s Questions, urging her to make the case to keep the branches open to RBS bosses.

He hit out at the Conservative Government, accusing it of failing to act on the issue.

“The Tories are letting Scotland down by failing to lift a finger to save these vital local banks from closure – leaving many communities with the damaging prospect of losing their last bank in town,” he said.

“While the UK Government refuses to take action, the SNP will continue our campaign to save these banks, which are hugely important for local people and businesses.

“That is why I have, for the past few weeks, been bypassing the Prime Minister to talk directly with RBS.

“Our discussions have been productive, and are moving in a positive direction. I am hopeful the concerns of our communities are being heard and that a breakthrough can still be found.”

However, Labour and the Tories accused him of undermining the work on the issue by the all-party Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, chaired by the SNP’s Pete Wishart. Speaking on the same programme, Colin Clark, the Tory MP for Gordon, said: “Ian Blackford seems to be undermining the work the committee has done by trying to get the headlines on it.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird added: “I am astounded that Ian Blackford is cutting across a live investigation being undertaken by the Scottish Select Committee into RBS and its proposals to close vital high-street bank branches.

“There should be no back-room deals done with RBS and I hope that is not what Pete Wishart and Ian Blackford are doing.”

“The cross-party select committee is in the process of trying to bring RBS chief executive Ross McEwan to appear before it – which so far he has refused to do.

“These reports smack of interference by Wishart and Blackford to ensure Ross McEwan doesn’t give evidence to the committee.

“And worse for the communities involved, it suggests they are attempting to ‘cherry-pick’ the branches which remain open.”

An RBS spokesman said that discussions were still in progress and that no decisions had been made “one way or another”.