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Donald MacLeod: If brass necks were real then glib banker would not be able to lift his head

Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive (PA Wire)
Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive (PA Wire)

I DON’T want to sound like a broken record but I’m afraid the RBS – the Real Banking Shame, or the Royal Bank of Scotland – gets it in the neck again this week.

The undisputed champion of my page rage is their unflinching CEO, Ross McEwan.

His long-awaited appearance for a supposed grilling by an all-party group of MPs at a Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee was but child’s play to someone so skilled in the arts of defending the indefensible.

Honestly, if brass necks were solid items of jewellery, then he would be wearing one so large and heavy he wouldn’t be able to lift his head to brush his teeth.

Then again, I must admit that his performance was quite impressive.

If you were hoping he would cave in under pressure when asked to justify his decision to close a further 62 Scottish branches, then you were living in cloud cuckoo land.

Not a glove was laid on him and the RBS, nor will there be as long as the Government, which owns 71% of the bank on behalf of the taxpayer, abjectly refuses to become directly involved.

When asked by committee chair, the SNP’s Pete Wishart MP, if he recognised the anger of customers in Scotland, Mr McEwan said he did but then simply talked of the praise RBS had received from some customers for their new app. He also defended the branch closures, saying the moves were in response to customer choices.

In effect he used the occasion as a platform to justify the RBS’s uncaring attitude towards their loyal customers and their greed-soaked, profit-driven policies. And he succeeded.

Worse was to come.

Royal Bank of Scotland (Philip Toscano/PA Wire)

News that RBS had finally reached a settlement figure, a fine of $4.9 billion, with the US Justice Department to close their investigation into the sales of RBS financial products before the banking crash had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Why are the RBS allowed to just walk away? The ordinary man in the street would certainly not be granted the same benevolence from our law courts.

Why are they allowed to pay money, which may be just a tiny drop in the ocean to such a huge bank, but it is our money – that’s you and me, the ordinary British taxpayer – because we own 71% of the RBS, remember?

It seems we are again being stuffed by both the RBS and the UK Government, paying not only for the bank’s global discredited business dealings, but also any fines they incur when they are caught, but we are also funding a more streamlined and less accountable version of the RBS in the future.

If the government can eradicate the rat population on South Georgia, surely they can do the same in our banking system?