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Worrying lack of scrutiny for senior roles.

Byline: IAN FRASER Leading finance journalist and author of Shredded: Inside RBS

What grated about the Scottish Government's appointment of Benny Higgins and Willie Watt to oversee the Scottish National Investment Bank was it was done by diktat.

The appointments of Higgins to supervise the bank's genesis and birth, and Watt as inaugural chairman, were presented as a fait accompli without any scope for public scrutiny. This is in marked contrast to what happens in Westminster, where the Government's preferred candidates for roles like governor of the Bank of England and chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority face often unforgiving grillings from the Treasury Select Committee.

Higgins In March 2017, Charlotte Hogg was even forced to quit as deputy governor of the Bank of England, a role to which she had only just been appointed, after the Treasury Committee exposed serious conflicts which she had failed to declare, involving her brother, Quintin Hogg, a senior Barclays banker.

In Holyrood, attempts to introduce similar levels of scrutiny and pre- or post-vetting of senior appointments have been knocked back by successive regimes since 1999. Watt was chief executive of Martin Currie Investment Management when the Edinburgh firm misused millions of pounds of investors' cash to bolster ailing investments it was managing for other clients in China.

Benny Higgins, often described in the media as a "colourful" character, also has some serious stains on his reputation.

Not only was he a key henchman of Fred Goodwin at RBS, where he took the rap for a major insurance mis-selling scandal in 2000.

He was also chief executive of Tesco Bank, where he spent more than PS18,000 on London taxis in eight months. If confidence in the stewardship of the new Scottish Investment Bank is to be assured, both men should agree to appear before a session of the Scottish Parliament's Economy Committee and allow their handling of these past scandals to be scrutinised.

Higgins spent more than PS18k on taxis in 8 months

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APPOINTED Benny Higgins

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Author:IAN FRASER Leading finance journalist and author of Shredded: Inside RBS
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2020
Words:336
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