COUNCILLORS have criticised the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for its decision to close two East Lothian branches.

Last month, the bank revealed plans to shut its branches in Dunbar and North Berwick as part of 62 RBS and 197 NatWest branch closures nationwide.

At a meeting of East Lothian Council, Councillor Paul McLennan (SNP), Dunbar and East Linton ward member, put forward a motion asking the local authority to write to RBS and ask its reasons behind shutting the two county branches.

He said: “The social and community impact on the North Berwick and Dunbar communities of these branch closures will be substantial. The RBS in Dunbar is in the centre of the town and will impact on the sustainability of High Street.

“We should write to the Westminster Government and ask for a review of the decision.”

His ward colleague Sue Kempson (Conservative) said the decision had come “at a bad time for Dunbar” and that the bank closure would have a “detrimental affect” on High Street.

The town’s community council has also invited a senior member of staff at RBS to its meeting next Monday (January 15).

Meanwhile, Councillor Jim Goodfellow (Labour), a North Berwick Coastal ward member, said the North Berwick branch was a “valued asset in the town”, adding: “When I’m in, there’s almost always a queue.

“They should have to prove that it is not being used and I’m not sure they would be able to do that in the case of North Berwick.”

Members also raised concerns over the impact on local businesses and the loss of local jobs.

Councillor Fiona O’Donnell (Labour) said: “My concern is for local businesses who use the bank to deposit cash and I would have a safety concern if they’re having to travel further to bank their money.”

Ms O’Donnell – who served as East Lothian MP between 2010 and 2015 – said current MP Martin Whitfield and MSP Iain Gray were trying to stop the branches closing.

Previously, Mr Whitfield said the closures were “a serious blow for North Berwick and Dunbar”.

And Labour Party colleague Mr Gray added: “This is disastrous news for Dunbar and North Berwick and a betrayal of loyal, local RBS customers. I know local people in both towns will be very angry about the decision and I fully understand and share that anger.

“RBS is still largely owned by the taxpayer, who had to save it when it was in trouble. I think the public are entitled to expect better than this from the RBS.”

With council members unanimously supporting Mr McLennan’s motion, council chief executive Angela Leitch said a letter would be sent to RBS asking them to meet with council officials.

Dunbar’s branch is due to shut on May 30, while North Berwick’s is set to close on June 25. These follow the closures of the RBS in Prestonpans, TSB in Tranent and Bank of Scotland in Gullane.

Dunbar Community Council has now invited Hazel Brydon, RBS local CEO, who is based in Duns, to its next meeting, which takes place in Dunbar Town House at 7pm next Monday.

Figures show that since 2012, the way in which people use the Dunbar branch has changed “dramatically”. According to an RBS spokesman, 89 per cent of customers already bank in other ways.

He said: “Transactions in Royal Bank of Scotland Dunbar branch have reduced by 31 per cent since 2012 with now only 71 customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis. Fifty-nine per cent of customers are now choosing to bank digitally with us on a regular basis instead.”

The Courier is awaiting a response to a request for footfall figures for the North Berwick branch.

Five members of staff work at the Dunbar branch, with only one likely to be redeployed and the remaining four to be “impacted”, RBS says.