Martin Hannan: Morality lesson is long overdue

Fred Goodwin's excesses at RBS are still being felt. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Fred Goodwin's excesses at RBS are still being felt. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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While writing a recent story about the redundancies in the financial sector in Edinburgh, I was pretty stunned to learn that quite a lot of local people do not give a damn about such workers losing their jobs.

The problem is that everyone nowadays appears to lump even ordinary bank workers into that class of people known simply as “bankers”, who are now nearly as universally loathed as lawyers and politicians and, dare I say it, journalists.

These professions attract public opprobrium almost on a daily basis, and we only have ourselves to blame.

The expenses scandal at Westminster and the “ya boo” conduct at Holyrood have been the last straws for many people in regard to politicians, while we journalists have taken it in the neck for the conduct of some of our number in the tabloids (While I am against state regulation of the press, I cannot see why so many editors and publishers are opposing the plans being laid before both parliaments at present, because self-
regulation has utterly failed and if we are to have a free press then all journalists need to realise that the present status quo cannot continue).

Bankers brought about their own downfall as well, though any fool should have been able to foresee the disaster of unfettered capitalism. In banks, that meant that people who were, after all, basically just employees were allowed to more or less dictate how much money they could earn.

Greedy shareholders were quite happy to let these managers and directors dive headlong into the trough of cash and bonuses as long as share values held up.

The root cause of the banking collapse was greed, yes, but principally a lack of self-discipline in the pursuit of wealth.

That happened here in Edinburgh at Gogarburn when Fred Goodwin and his cohorts spent millions on creating the last word in luxury at RBS’s new head office. A secretary losing a job at RBS in the latest round of cuts cannot be blamed for what the bank did back then, but the mud is sticking even to those who do not deserve it.

It’s the same with the legal profession. I have recently come into contact with a firm that I previously respected which now has a specialist department chasing people for spurious insurance claims.

This firm will no doubt argue that it is merely following the wishes of a client, but I know I am not alone in thinking that all those adverts on television for “no win, no fee” law firms are encouraging the public to think that they can claim for just about anything – and isn’t it amazing how many people know all about whiplash injuries all of a sudden?

But lawyers, as well as the rest of the professions, have a duty to tell their clients and the public at large when something is both morally and legally wrong. Bankers no longer lend money willy-nilly, politicians may try it on with their expenses but they don’t get away with it, and I can assure you that journalists throughout the UK are now almost paranoid about causing offence.

Lawyers need to join the rest of us in taking a lesson in morality. That’s why I ask the Scottish Government to ban “no win, no fee” practices now.

Bain of my life

It seems I annoyed some people with my criticism of the Bainfield development at Fountainbridge. So I had a second look – and it’s even uglier than I thought.

Fan-tastic show from the Hibbies

For what it is worth, and I know it will be no consolation to the fans at this time, I thought everyone connected with Hibs conducted themselves with great dignity on Sunday at the Scottish Cup final.

The team lost out largely due to a lack of experience, and the young players are surely the bedrock of a fine Hibs side of the future.

The supporters were simply magnificent, and helped rally the team in the second half, so you could believe that a miracle was possible. As an example of getting behind their club, the Hibbies are second to none.

Grain of truth in beach findings

I HAD to laugh when I read the story in the Evening News that Lothian possesses some of the finest beaches in Europe.

Not for the first time, people confuse the quality of bathing water with the attractions of a beach. The European inspectors only measure the former, and not the latter.

It is very pleasing that the bathing water is “excellent”, but what a pity that many of our beaches are still polluted with dog poo and litter. You will notice that those problems are caused by careless people.

If our beaches really are to be among the best in Europe, then we need to see a real crackdown on those who despoil them. Oh, and considerably larger doses of sunshine would also be very helpful.

Number’s up for cup hoodoo

I did like the black humour of one Hibby of my acquaintance. He opined that supporters will have no difficulty in remembering that next season will be the 112th since Hibs won the Scottish Cup.

“Just as long as they don’t key that number into their mobiles to remind themselves,” he said, 112 being, of course, the international number for emergency services.