Royal Bank of Scotland has been accused of "outrageous" behaviour after announcing it is to shed back-office jobs in Britain and transfer the work to India.

RBS, which is 82% owned by the taxpayer, defended the move, saying: "The movement of roles between coun-tries reflects the global nature of our business."

However, unions charged the bank with hypocrisy, accusing it of sacking lower-salaried staff at a time when it was awarding investment bankers massive bonuses.

Yesterday's announcement involved fewer than 300 jobs, but the unions fear there will be more to come. While 215 permanent posts and a further 85 full-time temporary jobs were being scrapped, RBS announced 250 new posts would be created in India.

Before its troubles, the bank was proud to say it had a policy not to locate jobs offshore, but in recent years it has been accused of moving posts overseas.

In a statement, the bank said the changes – which will affect mainly the bank's global HQ at Gogarburn outside Edinburgh and staff in London, with some jobs at other UK locations also being axed – were necessary to streamline the business to ensure it remains competitive.

It said: "We have embarked upon a three-year transformation programme across our finance division which will increase efficiency and allow us to serve our customers better.

"This includes looking at our global footprint. The movement of roles between countries reflects the global nature of our business and the need to locate our people close to the customers they serve.

"Having to cut jobs is the most difficult part of our work to rebuild RBS. We will do all we can to support our staff, offer redeployment opportunities where possible and keep compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum.

"We remain committed to our long-standing principle of situating customer contact work within the country or region where the customer is located."

But last night the Unite union reacted with outrage. David Fleming, of Unite, said: "Instead of sending financial services work from the UK to a low-wage economy, RBS should be ensuring its workforce is able to get on with the work it does so well.

"It is outrageous that RBS is cutting 300 staff and 250 jobs are being shipped to India. These highly skilled workers in the finance function of the bank can earn as little as £22,500 per year, yet the group is choosing to make short-term cost savings by cutting hundreds of staff.

"There appears to be a deep hypocrisy in this organisation where the city bankers continue to be patted on the back, while staff are being sacked and getting no recognition for their contribution."

SNP Edinburgh Western MSP Colin Keir said: "This is a disappointing decision from RBS. I have urged the Scottish Government to put its various employment support initiatives into action, to help those being made redundant into new employment."

Kezia Dugdale, Labour Lothians MSP and Shadow Youth Unemployment Minister, said: "Given the British taxpayer is the majority shareholder in RBS, this will not be well understood by those people facing these redundancies.

"It seems like those at the top of RBS continue to enjoy the good life while the rank-and-file workforce takes the pain."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "This publicly owned bank must ensure it exhausts all possibilities to protect as many jobs as possible."