There have been so many banking scandals that the public must be moving from a state of moral outrage towards bored indifference. Seemingly every day another headline appears highlighting a new story of financial mismanagement and greed. We are all paying a high price for the misdemeanours of our bankers and the successive failures on the part of the authorities to keep them in check. I am certainly becoming hardened to the impact of new revelations. I now expect to find that the banking world is mismanaged and corrupt but one recent story did rather catch even my jaundiced eye.
The Royal Bank of Scotland received a world record £45 billion bailout from public funds after it was threatened with collapse and is still principally owned by the British tax payers. The Bank ran into trouble under the leadership of Fred “The Shred” Goodwin following a mad spending spree which saw it rapidly buy out several other financial institutions which proved to be foolish investments.
Now you would think that if this bank happened to be sitting on some valuable assets that it might want to sell those off to mitigate its liabilities to the public or at least make those assets available for public use. Sadly but unsurprisingly such high ideals have failed to materialise. The Royal Bank of Scotland is sitting on a valuable art collection which has largely remained behind closed doors.
5 years after it was promised that the collection would be either sold off or put on public display, much of the collection is still hidden from public view. Some minor pieces have been sold off and an unspecified number of works loaned out but many of the best paintings are locked away. The collection includes works by LS Lowry, David Hockney, Peter Howson and Jack Vettriano. Indeed 3500 of the 4000 pieces which formed the collection are still in the bank’s hands and hidden from public view. The works locked away include Lowry’s famous “At The Factory Gates” and Vetrianno’s “Fish Teas2, both worth tens of thousands.
The bank’s excuses for dragging their heels over the disposal of the collection include the current poor market conditions and their policy to retain works which are deemed to part of their heritage. Experts, however, are smelling a rat and are questioning why the art remains behind closed doors. The bank have even refused to come clean about the exact details of what they have when approached by the art world to catalogue the works. One has to ask what poor market conditions? It has been well publicised that fine art has remained one form of investment which is performing well. Indeed only vintage cars are faring better at the present time.
Surely the Bank’s collection should be relinquished right now. If it isn’t sold off for the benefit of the public purse it should be put on public display so that the taxpayers who have essentially paid for it could at least see and enjoy it. This is the kind of story that makes my blood boil. It is like finding out that someone on benefits is driving around in an Aston Martin and has Rolex on their wrist.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her timw between writing and ruunning her shop.