‘Resist the urge to feel any sympathy’

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With a little bit of effort, it is possible to feel sorry for Sir Fred Goodwin.

His downfall from being arguably the world’s most powerful Scot to becoming the “face” of the recession has been almost tragic.

While once he enjoyed cosy meetings with Prime Ministers and “access all areas” Formula 1 race passes, today he lives in ignominy and exile.

So, yes, it is possible to feel some sympathy for Sir Fred . . . but forgive us if we resist that impulse.

He may have lost his job as RBS chief executive but a £324,000 a year pension makes his retirement much more comfortable than the lives of tens of thousands of others out of work since 2008. And that’s without adding in his £5m lump sum and final year’s bonus.

No wonder there are moves afoot to strip Sir Fred of the knighthood he was awarded in 2004 “for services to banking”.

Critics of the move say it would be unprecedented for the Forfeiture Committee to withdraw the honour – a step normally reserved for criminals or those who get banned from working in the profession for which they were nominated.

Despite the growing clamour for the knighthood to be removed, the committee may also take the view that it was granted for decades of work in banking and can’t be taken away because of errors late in that career.

But clearly that would be an absurd position.

RBS’s aggressive expansionism, especially the catastrophic £49bn ABN Amro deal, is seen as a key moment in the decline not just of Sir Fred’s bank but of the entire industry.

That’s why, though his wealth means he will never have to work again, in the public’s eyes at least, effectively Sir Fred has been “struck off” as a banker.

Today’s honours are supposed to more accurately reflect the priorities of ordinary people. Unprecedented or not, that would justify the removal of Fred’s “Sir”.

Whatever the outcome, with some regrets the man we once admired as an ambassador for Edinburgh will forever now be plain “Mr Goodwin” in the pages of the News.