The decision by the state-backed lender will see a total of 62 RBS branches and 197 NatWest outlets closed by mid 2018, with 1,000 staff affected. NatWest is owned by RBS and has been since 2000.
It leaves RBS with just 744 branches in the UK. RBS, still 72 per cent owned by the taxpayer, hopes to limit the number of redundancies to 680 by redeploying the remaining staff.
The bank is the third this week to announce branch closures and job cuts, following Lloyds and Yorkshire Building Society. Justifying the move an RBS spokesman said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile.
“Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40 per cent and mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent over the same period.
“More than 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one-in-five only bank with us digitally.”
However, union Unite described the move as a “betrayal” and ripped into the Government for allowing the closures to proceed.
The union’s national officer Rob MacGregor also said the move could effectively signal the end of banking in branches.
He added: “The Royal Bank of Scotland has decided to decimate its bank branch network.
“Now serious questions need to be asked about whether these closures mark the end of branch network banking.
“This announcement will forever change the face of banking in this country resulting in over a thousand staff losing their jobs and hundreds of high streets without any banking facilities.
“Why is the Government signing off this alarming branch closure programme?”
RBS insisted it is providing customers with “more ways to bank than ever before”.