BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has criticised Scottish authorities amid accusations they are dragging their feet over the potential prosecution of Fred Goodwin and other former directors of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) following the bank's near-collapse.

Mr Cable made a dramatic intervention in the inquiry by calling for a decision from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as soon as possible on whether or not legal action will be taken. He warned that public confidence in its work was at stake.

The Crown Office responded by suggesting it would be unfortunate if Mr Cable's comments could be seen as attempted interference with the independent investigation.

The Liberal Democrat MP's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) asked authorities to look into the actions of the bank's former bosses more than a year ago, following legal advice that prosecutions could be possible. But it has heard nothing since.

Potential prosecutions could look at Goodwin's alleged failures, as RBS chief executive, in upholding the duties of a company director. If successful, the Scot could be barred from working in finance again.

The Scottish investigation was prompted by a damning report by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) watchdog that warned multiple poor decisions had triggered RBS's demise, including the £50 billion decision to buy Dutch bank ABN Amro.

RBS had to be bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of £46bn at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

Goodwin lost his knighthood and a significant chunk of his £700,000-a- year pension. However, no senior RBS officials have ever been prosecuted.

In a letter to fellow LibDem, Advocate General, Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, Mr Cable wrote that it was up to Scottish authorities which former directors their investigation considered.

He expressed frustration at a lack of progress and insisted he does not want to influence the outcome of any decision.

Mr Cable wrote that he wants to maintain public confidence in the Crown Office and that "public and media interest in the banking sector and RBS have not dissipated".

He said there was considerable public concern about the actions of the directors of the RBS prior to its insolvency.

Mr Cable said: "Following the release of the FSA's report into the failure of RBS I sought legal advice on what, if any, enforcement action was appropriate, and was advised that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should consider a possible prosecution. Given that this matter was referred to them in January 2012, I am very keen for a decision to be reached as quickly as possible in order to maintain public confidence in the efficiency of the decision-making process."

Mr Cable's letter, which has also been sent to Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate, adds: "There have been numerous questions about what steps can be taken to address concerns. In particular, this has focused on the prosecution and possible disqualification of former directors in appropriate cases."

Lord McFall, who sits on Westminster's banking commission and formerly chaired the Commons Treasury Committee, called for senior bankers to take responsibility for their actions in the lead up to taxpayer-funded bailouts.

The Labour peer said: "The history of this process has been difficult throughout the banking crisis. There's a need to ensure that there is individual accountability by senior executives and non-executive directors in this area. This is what has been missing to date, and it is something that needs to be addressed."

The Crown Office said it was disappointed Mr Cable had written to the Advocate General because he has no role in investigation or prosecution of crime.

A spokesman said: "It would be unfortunate if this were to be construed as attempted interference with independent investigation and prosecutorial decision- making by the Lord Advocate."

He added: "Crown Office officials have kept BIS officials appropriately advised of progress throughout the investigation and confirmed on several occasions that in Scotland it is the Lord Advocate who is the sole prosecuting authority and that he acts independently in the public interest. Public confidence in Scotland into the investigation of allegations of criminality occurring here is best maintained by thorough independent investigation by the Lord Advocate.

"If the Secretary of State contacts the Lord Advocate direct he would be happy to brief on progress to date and timescales."

Goodwin is also facing legal action from 100 institutional RBS shareholders and 12,000 private investors, who have launched a £4bn claim against the directors who presided over the collapse.

Mr Cable has pressed for directors of the bailed-out Halifax Bank of Scotland to face bans as directors. The Banking Commission is due to publish its report on the industry in June.