Willie Sullivan: The tentacles of the banks need to be untangled

THERE is a hole in the Scottish political debate the size of the financial deficit.Four years ago we were only hours away from the cash machines being shut down, yet we still do not really know what the Scottish political parties think about banking reform.

The banking sector is an important part of Scotland’s economy and more importantly a vital part of our society. The consequences of its mismanagement, avaricious risk-taking and cosy relationship with politicians are something that ordinary citizens have to live with every day.

Cuts in public services, job losses or the rise in the cost of living all link back to 2008. As HBOS and RBS were at the centre of the storm, and the economy will be the game-changing issue in the constitutional question, this silence should be deafening us.

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The Scottish Parliament produced a half-hearted report on the issue in 2010. Later evidence and analysis showed that the investigation was too close in time to the events and too close in comfort to the banks.

Labelling “reserved for Westminster” is a cop-out. There are important answers required.

Where do MSPs stand on separation of retail and investment banking to avoid ordinary citizens’ deposits being used to gamble in high-risk speculative deals?

Where do they stand on limiting the size of banks so that they serve local communities and economies and are not so big that their failure would prove so catastrophic that billions of pounds of public money is needed to bail them out?

And where do they stand on a register of lobbyists and a disclosure about how much money banks spend on trying to influence policy?

All the party leaders should make it clear what they think on these crucial matters and then use their privileged position of voice and influence to put pressure on the UK government to make the necessary changes.

The financial sector was once described as a great vampire squid. As no-one is answering these questions we have to ask how far it has its tentacles wrapped around Scottish politics.

Willie Sullivan is vice-chair of left-of-centre pressure group Compass