PEEBLESSHIRE’S MP has criticised a decision to close an Innerleithen bank, labelling the plans “cynical”.

Lloyds Group announced on Wednesday that it will close 60 Halifax, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland branches across the country, due to the rise in popularity of online banking.

Included in the list are the Bank of Scotland bases in Innerleithen High Street and Selkirk’s Market Place.

But David Mundell, the MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, says he believes the move is to get round proposed UK Government legislation to require facilities to remain in local communities.

He said: “Access to cash and banking services remain vitally important to people in rural areas and whilst the big banks give this lip service, their actions suggest otherwise.

“Of course, fewer people are using branches, but closing them without an alternative and leaving empty properties on local high streets isn’t the way to tackle the issue and smacks of an entirely cost driven approach rather than meeting customer need.

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“I’ve been in favour of getting voluntary agreement amongst the banks about the way forward, but action like this by Bank of Scotland leads me to a view that legislation will be required to force them to meet the needs of rural and vulnerable communities.”

The Innerleithen branch is set to close on August 4, with Selkirk shutting its doors for the final time four days later.

Vim Maru, group retail director at Lloyds Banking Group said: “Just like many other high street businesses, fewer customers are choosing to visit our branches.

“Our branch network is an important way for us to support our customers, but we need to adapt to the significant growth in customers choosing to do most of their everyday banking online.”

The 60 branches, which are set to close across the UK, are thought to employ 124 people; but Lloyds said it would try to find affected staff new roles within the company.

Caren Evans, national officer for the union Unite, said: “Lloyds Banking Group must not be allowed to abandon 60 more local communities where bank branches play an essential role.

“The 124 employees who work tirelessly in their communities are dedicated to serving the banking needs of the most vulnerable who depend on their skilled services.

“When a bank branch closes, the heart of the local community is ripped out and the results are devastating. Unite is clear that simply leaving an ATM in place of a vibrant bank branch is wholly insufficient.”