By Scott Wright

BANKING giant HSBC is swinging the axe on two branches in prominent locations in Scotland.

The branches on Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Falkirk’s High Street are part of a UK-wide cull of 85 outlets.

The closures, which begin with the shuttering of Princes Street on April 23 with Falkirk following on June 11, will reduce its UK branch footprint to 511, including eight in Scotland.

The move comes amid signs the pandemic has accelerated the decline of footfall in bank branches, as restrictions have led consumers to do more of their banking online.

HSBC said the pandemic had “emphasised” the need for the changes it is making to its network.

A spokesman said the bank aims to redeploy all customer service staff affected in Edinburgh and Falkirk to roles in nearby branches or offices. The 85 closures will be phased throughout the year.

The bank’s remaining branches in Scotland are in Aberdeen (Union Street), Dumfries (High Street), Dundee (Murraygate), Edinburgh (Hanover Street), Glasgow (Buchanan Street), Inverness (High Street), Stirling (Murray Place) and Perth (High Street).

The bank noted that, of the branches selected for closure, 81 are within one mile of a Post Office, where it said customers can carry out day to day transactions. Two-thirds are within five miles of another HSBC branch, and nine in 10 are within 10 miles, it added.

HSBC said the “evolution” of its branch network would lead to “significant further investment and the creation of four distinct branch formats”, each offering a different level of service. The formats range from full service banks to temporary pop-ups.

Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s head of network, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for the changes that we are making. It hasn’t pushed us in a different direction but reinforces the things that we were focusing on before and has crystalised our thinking.”