Royal Bank of Scotland is to close 162 branches with the loss of 792 jobs after pulling back from plans to launch a standalone 'challenger bank' using the Williams & Glyn brand.
The bank had previously announced plans to divest Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales and NatWest retail banking business in Scotland with the intention that it would become a completely separate bank.
"The divestment is now not going ahead and so the Williams & Glyn business, including its branch network, are being reintegrated back into the core bank," says the bank in a statement.
RBS says that Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales has essentially been run as a standalone bank for around eight years and this status as a 'business-for-sale' meant that it diverged in a number ways from the customer offering, products, services, branch automation and online banking capabilities of the core bank.
RBS had originally tried to carve out the Williams & Glyn business and develop a new banking platform for the operation but scrapped the plans in 2016 after admitting that the IT challenges had been overwhelming.
Rob MacGregor of the Unite union raged at the fresh wave of closures, which follows existing plans to shutter 52 bank branches in Scotland that serve rural communities.
"The Williams & Glyn saga rolls on as Royal Bank of Scotland continues with its shambolically poor management of this business," he says. "How does a taxpayer-funded institution spend £1.8bn on a failed IT project and in the next breath demolish the much-needed local bank branches?"
RBS retorts that the vast majority of branches for the chop are in close proximity to either another Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales branch or a NatWest branch.
A bank spokesman adds: "The way customers bank with us has changed radically over the last few years. Since 2014, branch transactions across Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales are down 30%. During this same period, there has been a 53% increase in the number of customers using mobile banking and mobile transactions have increased by 74%."