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Help for small firms is the bank statement I want most

It Is bad enough to see Scotland's national rugby team being humiliated by a competent but hardly inspirational Ireland team.

It is much worse when the team is sponsored by the Royal Bank Of Scotland. I remain uneasy that any of our national teams should be associated with this organisation, which is still a long way from complete rehabilitation, and is still associated with failure and incompetence on a grand scale.

Further, UK taxpayers now own more than 80% of this unfortunate institution. Most of these taxpayers are English. Can they be happy at the sight of their money being used to sponsor a Scotland team, particularly when that team is playing England, which of course will happen very soon? This seems to me to be bordering on the nonsensical.

But let us be fair to the new chief executive of the RBS, the dynamic New Zealander Ross McEwan. He has not been in the job - one of the most difficult in world finance - for long, and there are encouraging hints about what he is going to say in his first, eagerly anticipated, strategy statement later this month.

Mr McEwan has signalled that the bank will be much more based on an old-fashioned model of traditional banking integrity, and at the same time more focussed on its customers.

Sponsorship is probably not high on his last of priorities, but maybe he could change the strategy here too. Instead of sponsoring national teams, why does the bank not commit all its sponsorship effort to the grass roots?

It could do much to help local sports teams and to provide community-based sporting facilities. This would do far more social good, it would be excellent public relations for the bank. It would also (admittedly a less pressing priority) save many of us from embarrassment.

Meanwhile, small and medium-sized businesses - those that employ fewer than 250 people - are constantly complaining, with legitimacy, that our taxpayer-funded banks are not giving credit where it is most needed, and that is to this very sector, that of small enterprises. Writing as someone who is, like so many of us, a part owner of the RBS (although I did not want to be) I would like to see more of my money, and that of many millions of other UK taxpayers, spent on helping little, not big, business.

Let's remember: it is not these small enterprises that created our current problems. No small business is too big to fail. Small enterprises are almost always started by people who risk their own livelihood and are prepared to work very hard. They need to be supported and I would like to see our huge publicly owned banks doing a lot more to provide that support.

Meanwhile we should ignore the siren voices coming from within the UK Government, and from its servile cheerleaders. I am beginning to realise the UK economy is not really recovering well. The much trumpeted upturn is essentially false. It is driven by an unsustainable boom of debt-fuelled consumption, not debt-fuelled enterprise.

This consumption is ultimately not helping the UK economy. It is fantastic for those exporting to Britain, who are laughing all the way to their own (foreign) banks, but is hardly helping to sustain the UK's hard-pressed small employers. Most people now realise that far too many of our small businesses are being largely ignored by our big banks.

Mr McEwan's number one aim should be to bolster his bank's capital position, which remains perilous. Immediately after that he should devote his efforts to supporting the small business sector.

The spivvery and duplicity that so besmirched the good name of Scottish banking may be over, but there is still much to be done before the RBS is fully rehabilitated in the public eye. It has been losing money and it is overstaffed. Some of these staff are still paid far too much.

Mr McEwan has a huge task ahead and we should all wish him well. After all, he is in charge of our money.

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