People’s bank gets £10m
Scots tycoons invest £10m in the Airdrie
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