CLIVE Miquel's decision to bar The Herald from yesterday's meeting of shareholders in Lees Foods was as baffling as it was lamentable.

The outcome of the £5.6 million management buyout bid for Lees Foods that Mr Miquel has made with fellow directors is one that will concern many private and institutional shareholders in the company and will be studied across the business community.

The importance of shareholder democracy has been highlighted in recent weeks as investors made their feelings known to company directors. A feature of the shows of assertiveness seen in the so-called shareholder spring has been the insistence that management teams are accountable to investors. Those who can not attend investor meetings should be able to get an accurate account of what happens at them.

In line with the standards The Herald upholds, the newspaper has been scrupulously even-handed in its coverage of the MBO bid by Mr Miquel's team. The Herald has reported on the claims of some shareholders that the 230p per share offer undervalues the company. But it has also recorded the view of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which represents much of Lees' 270-strong workforce, that the bid would be in the best interests of its members.

Against that backdrop Mr Miquel's move is especially hard to fathom. Such action from listed Scottish companies is extremely rare.

Lees Foods may end up being a private company when the fate of the MBO bid is decided. For now it is a public company and must demonstrate the openness and accountability required of such companies. Shareholders will hope that such qualities will be on display throughout the remainder of the bid process.