It’s ‘ludicrous’ to close Virgin Money in ‘thriving’ Oban, MP says

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Virgin Money, the brand name now used by the former Clydesdale Bank, is to close its Oban branch and 11 others in Scotland on February 1, with the loss of 55 jobs.

The firm said a trend of fewer customers using bank branches for day-to-day transactions had been accelerated by the Covid pandemic. However, Argyll MP Brendan O’Hara called it a ‘ludicrous’ decision to shut a branch in a ‘thriving town’ due to falling visitor numbers last year during a deadly viral outbreak.

A further 18 branches will close in other parts of the UK and a total of 112 jobs are at risk. Virgin Money said it intends to find alternative roles for staff wherever possible, but some face redundancy.

The Scottish branches – which will all close early next year – are in Airdrie, Banchory, Broughty Ferry, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Galashiels, Milngavie, Musselburgh, Oban, Portree, Stenhousemuir and Wick.

All are located less than a third of a mile away from the nearest Post Office, the firm said. However, the nearest Virgin Money branch for some customers will be lengthened considerably under the plans. For those who use the Oban branch, their nearest branches will be around 30 miles away in Lochgilphead, Fort William and Tobermory.

Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O’Hara said he was deeply disappointed yet another bank was closing its doors in the constituency.

He added: ‘Oban is a thriving town with many residents and visitors alike dependent on banking services. The news that Virgin Money has become the latest bank to close a number of high street branches is deeply disappointing.

‘To say they will provide alternative services in Lochgilphead is far from ideal. People living in rural locations should not be disadvantaged and to expect customers to make a round trip of over 70 miles to the nearest branch is ridiculous.

‘Their justification for closing this store based on a fall in visitor numbers of 67 per cent over the last year is ludicrous; people have not been going out because of the pandemic and banks were closed during some of that time as well.

‘We have seen far too many high street banks walk away from communities with no regard for the impact, particularly on rural areas where people, especially the elderly and those without their own transport, as well as many small businesses, rely on these vital services.’

Argyll & Bute MSP Jenni Minto said: ‘It’s really disappointing to learn that Virgin Money plan to close their Oban branch.

‘This is disappointing not only as it leads to the loss of jobs in the town but the loss also of an invaluable service for many who are unable to access online banking.

‘I am writing to Virgin to ask for this decision to be reconsidered and for information on what plans they have to support affected staff and customers in Oban.’

Meanwhile plans to shutter the Portree branch have been condemned by Skye MP Ian Blackford, who accused the bank of ‘turning its back’ on over 1,100 Skye customers.

The MP, who himself lives on Skye, has written to Virgin Money UK CEO David Duffy to formally seek a reconsideration of the closure plans.

‘People travelling from the north of Skye will face a 108-mile journey to the nearest branch in Fort William.

‘Your own press release states that 51 per cent of customers in Portree are digitally active. This means that almost half are not.

‘This action demonstrates that you have turned your back on the people of Skye. You need to understand the strength of feeling about this.’