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Banking Failure

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 4 May 2011

7. Whether his Department and the Treasury have assessed the potential effect of banking failure on the economy of an independent Scotland. (53562)

Banks and other financial institutions are vital to the functioning of the economy. Although no specific work has been commissioned on the banking bail-out in Scotland, a 2010 National Audit Office report states that the total amount at stake is currently £512 billion. As of December 2010, £124 billion in cash had been invested in Government financial interventions. Based on NAO data, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, SPICe, has estimated that the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds Banking Group were provided with £470 billion. SPICe also calculated that this figure was three times the annual Scottish GDP, and that the total UK Government intervention of £751 billion was equivalent to just over half of UK GDP.

Do those figures not show that, like Iceland and Ireland, a separate Scotland would simply not have been able to survive the international banking crisis on its own? Is it not the case that Scotland’s economy will always be better off inside, rather than outside, the United Kingdom?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. It is interesting that as we enter the Scottish Parliament election period, the Scottish National party appears to have forgotten its proclamation about the arc of prosperity and Scotland’s wish to join the economies of Ireland and Iceland. The First Minister, Alex Salmond, also appears to have forgotten saying in the 2007 campaign:

“We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a Scottish financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity, as opposed to one like that in the UK, which absorbs huge amounts of management time in ‘gold-plated’ regulation.”

That response shows that what has characterised the Scottish election campaign is that positivity wins over negativity. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least acknowledge and recognise that the failure of those so-called Scottish banks was down to UK regulation?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was listening to my last response. His leader, Alex Salmond, previously described the UK regulation as “gold-plated” and, at the previous Scottish elections, offered the voters “light-touch regulation”. This is the same Alex Salmond who said that the banking crisis was down to “spivs and speculators”.

One of the most pernicious effects of the banking failure in Scotland at the moment is the withdrawal by nationalised banks at short notice of funding for small businesses, such as TDI Ltd in my constituency. What will the Minister do to hold the moneylenders’ feet to the fire and get Project Merlin properly adhered to?

The Secretary of State and I are in regular contact with the banks operating in Scotland to ensure that Merlin goes forward as envisaged. We are also willing to take up individual cases such as the one that my hon. Friend mentions, which, if he refers it to us, we will refer directly to the banks in question. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. It is very discourteous, and I am sure that the House wishes to hear Mr Greg Hands.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister join me in welcoming the report by the Independent Commission on Banking, under Sir John Vickers, and will he remind the House who, in the last Parliament, awarded Sir Fred Goodwin a knighthood for services to banking?

My hon. Friend’s interventions at Scottish questions are always welcome. He is quite right to suggest that it was the Labour Government who not only awarded Sir Fred Goodwin his knighthood but involved him in virtually every other initiative that they pursued in Scotland. The Vickers report is to be welcomed in Scotland, as it is elsewhere in the United Kingdom.