There was no Scottish banking collapse

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by Hazel Lewry

The dust is finally settling with the most recent reports from the financial community stating the HBOS/Lloyds merger was inappropriate.  Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson’s legal amendment to permit the merger when they were in power was not the the ideal course of events.

The latest news is that the merger won’t be “undone” but Lloyds has to sell of more of its assets to assure a reasonable level of competition in both the high street and business community.

Meanwhile the furore continues over banking bonuses.   Under Labour the Westminster government simply failed to act.  Despite the public anger over bankers’ self-regulating payment schemes, after the 2010 election the Con-Dem nation has brought forth no significant legislation.

Yet Westminster blatantly used RBS and BOS as sticks to beat the Scottish nation, a policy eagerly adopted by the pro-Union press desperate for a scapegoat.

The bailout all the fault of us Scots, we’re too wee, to stupid, and need big Mother Parliament to bail us out.  Right from the top we were told this – it was almost beaten into the national psyche.

Look what would have happened if it hadn’t been for the Union, we were told – Scotland could never have bailed out “her” banks.  We’d be another Ireland or Iceland.  In reality Scotland is more like Norway, Sweden or Denmark.

Not one piece of serious investigative journalism was forthcoming from the mainstream press as they dutifully repeated the mantra of a bankrupt and devastated nation north of the border.  No article from the MSM examined the impact on Scotland would have been if she had not been tied to the Union and Westminster banking regulations.

Would Scotland have had an oil fund like Norway and have been in a place to initiate bail outs?  Would the country have followed our instinctive social and canny nature and had more conservative banking laws that prevented a collapse.  These are issues we’ll never know, and no attempt was ever made during the MSM blame game even to raise the question.

The MSM also neatly sidestepped the reality that Scottish Banks hadn’t been “Scottish” at all for quite some time.  It doesn’t matter a bit where any bank is “headquartered”, what matters is the law it operates under. This is a principal argument for public funds being used to rescue banks, they were under your jurisdiction, your laws, and your watchdogs and minders failed.  Otherwise the Icelanders, Portuguese and Irish are off the hook.  The banks are just another private company that went to the wall.

Since 1707 Scottish Banks have gradually come to operate under English company law and financial legislation.  They may have been perceived as Scottish, been headquartered here (that changed substantially for BOS with the Halifax merger / takeover), but they operated under Westminster oversight within the financial umbrella we know as the City of London.  There is no longer a Scottish stock exchange.

As chancellor, Gordon Brown was a major player with Tony Blair in passing lax banking regulation.  Banking regulation that basically had the criminals police themselves.  Lax banking regulation was also the order of the day in countries like the USA, Ireland and Iceland.

A high proportion of banks and financial institutions failed in these nations.  Bailouts ensued and people were impoverished.  Whether the nation was large or small didn’t matter.  Lax regulation and poor oversight were major problems leading to decimation and present day austerity.

Clearly UK Laws and lack of enforcement, not Scottish laws and lack of enforcement were behind the RBS failure.  Scotland doesn’t have a financial watchdog.  That’s a “reserved” power for Westminster.

Regulation strength, not the physical size of nations was the determining factor.  Scotland was then effectively blamed for Whitehall’s screw up.

Countries with decent economies and tight banking regulations such as Norway, Sweden and Canada saw relatively little financial upheaval and gave the lie to the “global crisis” theme.  Nations following the US/UK lead walked blythely into fiscal disaster.

Blaming Scotland and two Scots banks in particular for a UK problem where all banks competed on the playing field created by Westminster and the City of London is simply ridiculous.

Credence could be given to the blame game position if only RBS had been in difficulty; BOS is not a credible argument as it was, from the best possible Scottish perspective an Anglo/Scots concern several years before the collapse.  That it was not just RBS, but the English institutions of Lloyds, Bradford and Bingley, Northern Rock, Barclay’s et al that required rescuing gives the ultimate lie to the propaganda.

Union propaganda turned a Union failure into a Scottish confidence destroying debacle.  No nation on earth deserves this treatment at the hands of an alleged partner.  Likely none other would stand for it, but none other posses such a subservient media as to propagate it.  

It’s time for change.