Sunday, 26 April 2009

MSPs take up call for special joint inquiry into banking collapse

SUNDAY HERALD CAMPAIGN: By Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon

HIGH-LEVEL TALKS have started to secure a parliamentary investigation into the collapse of RBS and HBOS, the Sunday Herald can reveal.MSPs on the finance and economy committees at Holyrood are discussing holding a special joint inquiry into what happened to Scotland's financial giants and what it means for jobs and the economy.

The moves are in response to last week's launch of a Sunday Herald campaign for an investigation into how the country's two biggest banks fell from grace, and what lessons can be learned from their fall.

The idea has attracted support from figures including first minister Alex Salmond, historian Tom Devine, former solicitor general Lord McCluskey, and Sir Peter Burt, former chief executive of Bank of Scotland.

Tavish Scott, the Scottish LibDem leader, Green leader Patrick Harvie, and Independent MSP Margo MacDonald have backed it. Labour and the Conservatives remain to be persuaded.

This week the Sunday Herald prints a form to help you petition your MSP.

On Tuesday, Rob Gibson, the SNP deputy convener of Holyrood's economy committee, wrote to Iain Smith, its LibDem convener, to suggest an in-depth Scottish parliament investigation by a combination of their committee and the finance committee.

He said: "It could be set up on an ad- hoc basis and include some members of each committee picked for the task."

The next day, Linda Fabiani, an SNP member of the finance committee wrote in similar terms to SNP convener Andrew Welsh.

"This would allow the parliament to show leadership on behalf of Scotland," she said.

It is understood clerks to both committees are now considering the potential remit of an inquiry. Regulation of financial services is reserved to Westminster.

Fabiani said: "Any inquiry must hear from regulators as well as bankers and it would be ridiculous if Scotland could not hold an inquiry because UK bodies and the Treasury could not be compelled."

Sandra White, the SNP list MSP for Glasgow, this weekend tabled a parliamentary motion calling for an inquiry, and Jim Wallace, the former deputy first minister, said he wanted a joint inquiry by both the Scottish and UK parliaments on the issue.

"Surely this could be an opportunity for our elected representatives at both Westminster and Holyrood to devise a way of establishing a joint parliamentary committee to inquire into these issues?"

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