ALEX SALMOND has revealed details of a secret memo sent to RBS managers during the 1980s miners’ strike urging them to support those taking action, as he called on businesses to root themselves in their local communities.
The First Minister, who worked for RBS at the time, told how the bank’s then chief executive Charles Winter instructed staff to ensure the striking miners were not disadvantaged financially.
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Mr Salmond was addressing this year’s Business in the Parliament conference at Holyrood, in one of his last speeches there as First Minister.
He told politicians and business delegates: “At that time, Charles Winter, who was chief executive of the Royal Bank, sent a note round the RBS branches in the mining communities instructing the bank managers to make absolutely sure that no striking miner ended up dispossessed or disadvantaged.
“He made the point in the note, that at some point the strike would be over, but the Royal Bank of Scotland would be continuing in these communities and he expected the relationships to continue.
“That memo never saw the light of day and I think this is probably the first public reference to it, all these years later.”
The note was sent despite the fact the bank was competing at the time for the contract to administer the Government’s Student Loans Company.
Mr Salmond said: “If that memo that Charles Winter sent out had seen the light of day in the press, and it was sent out to a considerable number of people, then the chances of the Royal Bank of Scotland becoming the student loans banker once it was discovered by the then prime minister that they were not, how shall I put it, one of us, would have been very, very slim indeed.
“But that didn’t stop Charles Winter sending the memo out.
“It provides an illustration of the importance of business organisations understanding the necessity for prospering with communities and having affinity and empathy when communities are struggling.”
Chief executive of Virgin Money Jayne-Anne Gadhia also addressed the conference, and she said Scotland had “lost some of the magnetism” of the pre-financial crisis years.
She said: “Perhaps the painful demise of the old-style giants will allow a new type of business to emerge across multiple sectors, not just banking.
“For many this new visionary business will seek to support its local community in everything it does.
“In turn the local community will respond to that support, and that will drive growth, profits and sustainability.”
In her keynote speech, Ms Gadhia, who is also chair of Scottish Business in the Community, said Scotland must move on from the independence referendum debate and make further devolution work.
She said: “Clearly the time has come to move on from the referendum debate.
“Whatever your views, we now need to look forward to the next chapter of our country’s story, building upon the relative economic stability the UK is fortunate to enjoy.
“Our shared task and responsibility is to make enhanced devolution work, not just politically but in terms of generating economic growth and building prosperous communities.”
The conference, now in its ninth year, is hosted jointly by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government.
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