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Breaking up the banks

Brian Taylor | 10:57 UK time, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Stephen Hester is not happy.

The RBS chief executive reckons that the latest impositions upon his banking group depart from the course he was steering.

He is not, however, in a strong position to protest. Think beggars. Consider also choosers.

His dispute is with the European Commission which has, among other things, ordered RBS to dispose of insurance interests and other subsidiaries.

Mr Hester feels such an approach will serve neither enhanced competition nor the prospect of speedy repayment to the Treasury.

The demands, he says, were "more material than we had hoped".

Translated into Scots, the RBS has had a skelping for past misdeeds.

And there's more.

Lloyds Banking Group - which includes the grumbling wraith that was once the Bank of Scotland - is also to dispose of parts of its government-encouraged empire.

That includes the 185 Lloyds TSB branches in Scotland.

And that revives the chimerical prospect of recreating a small Scottish bank.

Once more, the ever-affable Bill Jamieson at The Scotsman is to the fore in that regard.

He suggests that the Scots investment banker Ben Thomson might have a role in such an endeavour.

Only a year ago, there was a vigorous campaign to prevent the Bank (or, more accurately, HBOS, its brutally titled modern guise) from being swallowed by Lloyds.

There was much talk of Scottish patriotrism linked to enlightened self-interest.

Perhaps understandably, the Scottish financial sector now seems somewhat cowed, cautious and sullen.

Even more understandably, the Scottish government is declining to comment at this exceptionally early stage.

But others, such as Tavish Scott, are arguing that a distinct new (or recreated) Scottish bank just might "restore some pride and self-confidence".


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