Peo­ple’s bank gets £10m

Scots ty­coons in­vest £10m in the Air­drie

The Scotsman - - Front Page - tErry Mur­dEN busi­ness edi­tor

Busi­ness­men in­clud­ing Sir Tom Farmer and Sir David Mur­ray are among a prom­i­nent group that is to plough around £10m into a small La­nark­shire sav­ings bank.

SOME of Scot­land’s best-known busi­ness lead­ers have in­vested £10 mil­lion into a tiny La­nark­shire sav­ings bank, which they see as a model of how bank­ing ought to be.

Trans­port ty­coon Brian Souter and a group of other high achievers, in­clud­ing mer­chant banker Sir An­gus Grossart and met­als-to-Rangers Foot­ball Club owner Sir David Mur­ray have each in­vested £1m in Air­drie Sav­ings Bank.

They say the seven-branch bank is an ex­am­ple of how a tra­di­tional bank can sur­vive and flour­ish and are look­ing to in­vest more to help it grow. It con­firmed plans an­nounced in March to open at least two more branches and hopes to have them op­er­a­tional by the end of the year.

Mr Souter, chief ex­ec­u­tive of bus and trains firm Stage­coach, said the pub­lic had be­come tired of the big-salary, big-prof­its cul­ture of the larger banks and were see­ing no ben­e­fits.

As news of the group’s in­volve­ment in the Air­drie emerged yes­ter­day morn­ing, the bank was in­un­dated with calls from well-wish­ers across Scot­land want­ing to fol­low their ex­am­ple and open ac­counts.

Tyre fit­ting pi­o­neer Sir Tom Farmer, the fi­nancier Ewan Brown, food firm boss Alastair Salvesen and Mr Souter’s sis­ter, Ann Gloag, are among those in­vest­ing, and other un­named busi­ness peo­ple are pour­ing cash into de­posit ac­counts or tak­ing out loans.

Bob Boyle, the 20-hours-amonth un­paid pres­i­dent of the bank said: “The trustees are de­lighted that so many prom­i­nent Scot­tish busi­ness fig­ures have come for­ward to back our am­bi­tions to ex­pand.

“I have lost count of the num­ber of func­tions I have at­tended on be­half of the bank. But I don’t even get my petrol ex­penses.”

The ini­tia­tive came from the busi­ness lead­ers, and their dis- cus­sions led to the de­ci­sion to in­vest.

Mr Boyle said: “The ra­tio­nale is that they feel the bank’s model is some­thing they want to as­sist as it ex­pands.”

The bank, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 175th an­niver­sary, is ex­pected to open two branches out­side La­nark­shire for the first time, with Perth, Stirling and Dundee in its sights, though it may re­main closer to home.

Its ex­pan­sion plans also in­clude fur­ther devel­op­ment of its in­ter­net bank­ing op­er­a­tions.

It has 60,000 ac­count hold­ers with de­posits of more than £120m. It has no share­hold­ers and so pays no div­i­dends. Sur­pluses are rein­vested in the bank’s re­serves.

Speak­ing for the new in­vestors, Ewan Brown said: “We want to see bank­ing val­ues re-es­tab­lished. We will feel these val­ues are im­por­tant.”

He said the group wanted to see the bank grow, but none was seek­ing in­flu­ence. “The speed at which the bank grows will be de­ter­mined by the trustees.”

Mr Souter said: “I think peo­ple are very tired and an­gry of what hap­pened with our banks in Scot­land and I think this cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity in the fu­ture to build a new bank which is based on mu­tual prin­ci­ples.

“It’s not go­ing to be spec­u­lat­ing in all kinds of strange de­riv­a­tives and it’s not go­ing to be a bank that’s go­ing to be fo­cused over­seas, it will be a bank that’s fo­cused in Scot­land – and re­ally it’s a peo­ples’ bank.”

Nick clegg has de­nied there are ma­jor rifts within his party over its coali­tion govern­ment with the con­ser­va­tives.

The Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, who has been stand­ing in for Prime Min­is­ter David cameron, ac­knowl­edged there was “ner­vous­ness” among Lib­eral Democrats over the de­ci­sions taken dur­ing its first months in of­fice and ac­cepted he would face dif­fi­cul­ties at next month’s party con­fer­ence.

How­ever, he said: “De­bate and peo­ple ex­press­ing their views is not a bad thing.”

De­spite Lib­eral Democrats en­dors­ing the de­ci­sion to en­ter into the coali­tion there has been un­rest, par­tic­u­larly on the Left of the party, over some as­pects of pol­icy.

Dur­ing a town hall meet­ing in croy­don, Mr clegg said: “Be­tween now and our party con­fer­ence in Liver­pool you will read a daily di­gest in the press say­ing ‘splits’ and ‘Lib Dems fall­ing out’.

“i don’t recog­nise that as the leader of the Lib­eral Democrats, i make it my busi­ness to talk to mem­bers.”

But he added: “is there ner­vous­ness? Of course there is.”

There would also be ner­vous­ness within the Tories be­cause coali­tion govern­ment was “new” for them too, he said.

“The prob­lem at the moment is all of this is seen through the prism of the tra­di­tional lan­guage of pol­i­tics – ab­so­lute de­feat or ab­so­lute vic­tory.”

He said that there were peo­ple “dis­sent­ing from the side­lines” but on the whole “the thing is work­ing well”.

Some 15,000 peo­ple had joined the Lib Dems this year, he said, one-third of them since the elec­tion and mem­bers were also re­new­ing.

He added: “Yes there are anx­i­eties, yes we are a very demo­cratic party as, if you want to come to our con­fer­ence, you will see.

“i love the fact that there are open de­bates and you bet there are peo­ple who are go­ing to be say­ing ‘Mr clegg, we think you got this wrong or that wrong’.

“That is what de­bate is about. i am the leader of a po­lit­i­cal party, not a sect.”

Se­nior Lib Dems, in­clud­ing charles kennedy and Sir Men­zies camp­bell, have been re­port­edly un­easy about some of the de­ci­sions taken by the coali­tion govern­ment and the cuts it has al­ready in­tro­duced.

Mean­while, Scot­tish Labour has at­tempted to woo dis­af­fected Lib Dem vot­ers.

Mr clegg stressed that the coali­tion pact be­tween the Lib Dems and con­ser­va­tives was not “chis­elled in stone”.

He said: “We will fight the next gen­eral elec­tion as an in­de­pen­dent party.”

Air­drie Sav­ings Bank is an ex­am­ple of how a tra­di­tional bank can sur­vive and flour­ish, ac­cord­ing to its pow­er­ful back­ers, pic­tured clock­wise from bot­tom left, Sir An­gus Grossart, Ann Gloag, Sir David Mur­ray, Brian Souter and Sir Tom Farmer

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