Santander UK chief executive Ana Botin says she remains committed to growing the branch network and staff numbers in Scotland but has again ruled out bidding for Clydesdale Bank.

Ms Botin, in Glasgow to speak to customers and deliver a lecture at Strathclyde University, confirmed Santander UK is focused on ambitious organic growth plans.

She said: "We have today 35 regional business centres [in the UK] and we will go to 70 in three years."

The Spanish-born banker stated she was hopeful of building on strong results in Scotland, where Santander increased its SME lending 55% in the past 12 months, compared to 15% across the UK.

There are also no plans to follow the lead of Royal Bank of Scotland and cut branch numbers.

Ms Botin said: "We as a group believe in a face-to-face and personalised service. Santander Group is the bank with the largest number of branches in the world and we absolutely believe in the personal relationship side of the business.

"We are very happy with our progress [in Scotland] and are doing very well on the SME side."

Santander UK has trebled its commercial banking team in Scotland in the past two years to around 60 today and Ms Botin signalled further growth.

A team has been set up in London to service businesses with more than £500 million turnover. There is currently one specialist in Scotland working with clients of that size but Ms Botin wants to add more.

She said: "We do have companies that bank with us in Scotland and England in that space but we are hiring more people and investing more resources.

"It is important that as a bank we are investing. We are very much committed to improving our business with individuals and corporates."

Ms Botin said Santander has not discussed the possible outcomes of the Scottish independence referendum to be held next year.

She said: "We are present in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and would want to be present whatever happens."

The long-mooted flotation of the bank's UK business still appears to be some way off.

Ms Botin said: "It depends firstly on how the market is valuing banks and that has improved in the past 12 months but it is still not where we want it to be.

"Secondly it depends on the clarity of regulation. Even though we are a very pure retail commercial bank we have very small parts of our business that probably don't fit so we have to create another company and all of that takes time.

"Third of course is we are in the middle of a big transformation and growth in the bank."

Ms Botin expressed a desire for more help to be given to entrepreneurs particularly to encourage them to grow businesses of scale rather than sell out to larger corporations.

She believes the take up of Santander's Breakthrough programme – which offers loans to companies with turnover of between £500,000 and £10m – is indicative of the demand for finance from SMEs.

She said: "These are the companies that provide most of the growth in jobs in the UK and can double and triple [in size] over very few years."

Ms Botin said the Funding for Lending scheme introduced by the UK government is helping banks to lower costs for consumers and businesses.

She feels more optimistic about the economy in the UK partly due to encouraging data from abroad.

She said: "We are all connected. The US is again becoming the engine for growth and China, although it is slowing, is still at something like 7%. There are signs of a better outlook."

Separately RBS has narrowed its shortlist of bidders for 315 branches which Santander pulled out of buying last year.

US private equity firms JC Flowers and Apollo are definitely out, but Corsair Capital, Centerbridge Partners, a proposal from several UK investment firms and Virgin Money are still in the running to take over the network.