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Union asks politicians to 'support communities and workers' hit by axing of Virgin Money banks

By David G Scott

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After the impending closure of a Wick bank was announced recently, Unite the union has contacted politicians at Holyrood and Westminster demanding support for local communities and workers affected by the axing of 12 Virgin Money bank branches across Scotland.

Virgin Money bank on Bridge Street in Wick is earmarked for closure. Picture: DGS
Virgin Money bank on Bridge Street in Wick is earmarked for closure. Picture: DGS

Debbie Hutchings, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has written to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Affairs Select Committee to enlist their support on behalf of the workers and the local communities who will be left behind by Virgin Money’s shameful branch closure plan.

“We do not believe Virgin Money has understood the importance of these local banks, and the huge impact it will have on communities across Scotland. It’s completely unacceptable that a banking giant can just ruthlessly run roughshod over workers, communities and businesses without any sense of social responsibility.”

The trade union has asked Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, and the chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee (Sasc), Pete Wishart MP, to work with Unite so that Virgin Money can be held "accountable for their actions".

Unite has requested that the Sasc holds an inquiry, and evidence hearings into the proposed branch closures in order to examine the devastating impact that this will inflict on workers and communities. In 2018, the Committee held a similar inquiry into the proposed closure of 62 Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branches across Scotland. The pressure led to the subsequent reprieve of 10 RBS branches. Sasc stated in the case of RBS that it had "singularly failed to appreciate the damage their closure programme will inflict on many communities across Scotland".

Virgin Money bank in Wick will close in January 2022. Pictures: DGS
Virgin Money bank in Wick will close in January 2022. Pictures: DGS

Unite has previously warned that the "axe will fall the hardest" in Scotland as remote island and rural communities, and town centres are set to be "left behind" by Virgin Money. The 12 branches in Scotland earmarked for closure are Airdrie, Banchory, Broughty Ferry, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Galashiels, Milngavie, Musselburgh, Oban, Portree, Stenhousemuir and Wick. It is estimated that around 76 employees in Scotland are likely to be made redundant due to branch location, and the lack of suitable transfer alternatives nearby. In England, a further 19 branches are being proposed for closure.

In 2018, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Group (CYBG) acquired Virgin Money, now trading under the Virgin brand, in a £1.7 billion takeover. Unite is the only recognised trade union within Virgin Money, with the banking group having an estimated workforce of around 7,800. The Virgin Group reported pre-tax profits of £72 million for the six months to March 31, 2021, as interim pre-tax profits more than doubled to £245m from £120m a year ago. The last annual profits before tax reported to September 30, 2020, totalled £127.7 million.

Ms Hutchings added: “In Scotland, we unfortunately have an appalling track record of banks closing branches and leaving communities behind without a care in the world for the damage they are inflicting. It’s got to stop, and it can only stop if the politicians work with us to hold Virgin Money accountable for their actions. We need Holyrood and Westminster to intervene so that we can save these branches and maintain the vital lifeline that these banks provide for people and workers.”

Related articles:

'Hello Wick' and goodbye Wick as another bank closes its doors

Everybody in Wick was shocked by Virgin Money closure decision, says community council vice-chairman

Virgin Money Wick branch closure ‘devastating’ for business and community says local MSP Maree Todd

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