No accounting for finance hypocrisy

Scottish Policy, UK Policy Oct 10, 2012 1 Comment

It’s not just that Sir Sandy Crombie is so utterly ridiculous in his defence of Creative Scotland, its that he reveals the utter hypocrisy at the heart of public police in Britain

I’ve hurt my hand making typing sore. I would have liked to write something pointed about the hypocrisy of the treatment of artists by bankers but I can now protect my poor hand because its been done for me. Sir Sandy Crombie, former chief executive of Standard Life and now Chair of the Creative Scotland board writes in response to, well, every artist in Scotland telling him he’s got it badly wrong. What he writes is:

“At current rates of expenditure £1000m will pass through Creative Scotland in the course of a 12-year period to be used in support of arts and cultural activity. They who provide the money have a right to ask what will result from that investment.”

When I read that this morning I choked on my tea. Let me just see if I’ve got this straight; a banker is willing to go on record to claim that “they who provide the money” (eh, that’s us Sandy) should get details not only on what has been done with our money but what will “result” from investing it. I heartily agree, Sandy. Could you start by phoning round your pals in the financial services sector to ask where the bailout money is? Or even more to the point, where all that quantitative easing cash went? No, wait a minute, that’s not enough. Because what you are suggesting is not that Creative Scotland explain how it distributed the money but that every artist individually will fill in paperwork proving what return they will give for every quid. So what we want is every banker to do the same. We will get a slight variation on the Creative Scotland forms and we will make every banker in Britain account in detail personally and individually for every pound squandered. Sorry, I meant accountable for a return on our investment.

There are three serious points here. The first is the fact not only is public life in Scotland still dominated by the people who brought the world economy to its knees, they still get to run it according to their own personal failed ideologies. The second is that the treatment of artists remains an outrageous combination of patronisation and contempt and command and control. The third is that public administration will continue to fail for as long as one class of person (business leaders) simultaneously exempt themselves from the scrutiny they impose on others in an attempt to shape the nature of public policy (red tape is good for the public sector and artists but bad for business leaders). Intensive regulation in the public realm and complete deregulation in the private realm is the neoliberal dream – justify anything you do to make society richer as I justify nothing in my fight to make myself richer.

About four years ago I asked what impact assessment was to be made of the £200 million cost of a wasteful blanket business rates cut. I was of course being intentionally obtuse – business ideology must never be made to answer for itself. The only accountability business leaders should be involved in is telling us the public sector is unaffordable.

Satire, thy name is financial services.

Robin McAlpine

One Response to “No accounting for finance hypocrisy”

  1. variantmag says:

    Besides Sandy Crombie (Standard Life, RBS) is it a coincidence that Ewan Brown, ex-banker complicit in ‘greed is good’ demutualisation and deregulation of financial services, was placed in charge of overseeing Creative Scotland Ltd and its metamorphosis?

    What of the changing ethos and financial emphasis of the cultural sector that’s come with the concentration on the FIRL sectors (finance, insurance, real estate, and legal) from which ‘leaders’ increasingly move to manage the arts. Notably, at a time when greater emphasis has been placed on the centrality of ‘leadership’ (via Clore Foundation etc.).

    Ewan Brown (Lloyds TSB) was chairman of the company set up to establish Creative Scotland when it had no regulatory oversight, along with Chris Masters (Wood Group) and current board member Peter Cabrelli (HBOS).

    “As Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland, I do not currently regulate appointments to the board of Creative Scotland. The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill is making its way through parliament. It has, I understand, reached stage 2. If the Bill succeeds in its current format, appointments to the board will fall under my regulatory remit. … Given that the Bill has not yet passed, I can state categorically that I will have no regulatory oversight of this appointments process.”
    Karen Carlton, Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland, MWB Business Exchange, 9-10 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.

    The dominance of this habitus from which appointments are conjured is experienced from the National Galleries to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. With such appointments come a particular set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and tastes that collectively, if we’re being polite, we might term a shared ideology.

    To what extent is the increasing dominance of the FIRL sector and the influence of their working practices of concern? On what basis should we raise questions and challenge the legitimacy of the decisions being made at present, to have very clear analyses of what the nature of the problems are and what possible exits there are?

    This from Susan Rice (former-chairman and chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland, managing director of the Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland) who chairs the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Forum “to ensure the city’s pre-eminence on an increasingly competitive global circuit for such events”:

    “…These days, she warns, nobody should assume they will get a grant just because they had a grant before. ‘Any arts body should have a board guiding it to think about contingencies. The severity of cuts might mean the demise of some organisations and that would be very sad. There again, others might be in a better position to trim their programmes and still keep going, even expand creatively’.”
    “I’m not one of the bad ones, so why should I deny that I’m a banker?”
    Susan Rice is an enthusiastic patron of the arts.

    FACE TO FACE: Susan Rice interviewed by Anne Simpson, 15 Aug 2010

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