2007 - 2021

The Markheims in our Midst


A year ago today RBS chief Stephen Hester decided not to accept £963k bonus payment due to “enormous political & media pressure”. Douglas Wilson puts the case for a People’s Bank.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story, Markheim, which many have seen as a precursor to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the eponymous character goes to a pawn shop on Christmas day, under the pretext of buying his fiancée a present, only to subsequently murder the owner of the shop and steal his money, so that he can continue to fund his gambling on the London stock market.

Don’t ask me why, but it’s a tale which reminds me of our bankers, the bankers and stock-brokers and financial experts who are allowed to live beyond the limitations and boundaries that govern the rest of us, and who continue to plunder the common store, destroying people’s lives, creating vast reservoirs of resentment and unhappiness, in this so-called age of austerity – the in vogue jargon for the systematic and calculated dismantling of the Welfare State which our fathers and grandfathers, who fought and died in two World Wars, so painstakingly built from the ruins of Europe.

How is it possible that the bankers continue to think they have a right to take enormous bonuses from state run banks? Why are the nationalised banks being run on the same lines, by and for the same clique of public school boys who dug us into this hole in the first place? Did the events of 2008 really change nothing?

The impunity bankers and the banks have enjoyed is so scandalous, so stark, the public’s disenchantment with bankers so widespread, that it is simply bewildering and bizarre that it continues to go ignored. Not only that, but we continue to hand out bonuses to them. But then again, as the German writer Thomas Bernhard once noted, ‘the terrible is also always ridiculous.’

Journalists and others alike tell us we that we are experiencing the deepest recession in living memory because of a banking crisis; that the crisis has its direct source in the fact that the banks were subject to no real, effective control. But the real banking crisis of 2013, however, is that we continue to let them get away with it. The bankers are only Masters of the Universe to the extent that we allow our politicians to let them off the hook. Stephen Hester’s decision to turn down a 963K bonus following intense media and political pressure one year ago to the day, welcome news though it was at the time, was less a victory than yet another sign of what is an endemic and acute social and political problem: we need legislation on the banks, and for that we need politicians who will deliver it.

We need a state-run bank in an independent Scotland, a bank with a social function in its charter, which supports entrepreneurs, social projects, and the vulnerable in society, that gives the customer a reasonable and fair deal: a people’s bank. A bank devoted to that old-fashioned idea of lending money to ordinary people with a project they want to carry out, as opposed to these corrupt institutions of today devoted to playing the stock market and passing on the bill to the tax payer. I would like to see a people’s bank written into the Constitution of an independent Scotland.

This recession is destroying the businesses of centre-right voting business people just as much as it is hitting left-voting public sector workers. It is Stiglitz’s 99% against the 1%. When are we going to collar the banks? When are we going to bring to book these recidivist delinquents? We need to enshrine a public bank in law, a financial instrument responsible to a sovereign Scottish parliament. Making money from money cannot just be something for private wealth and lucre. Why can’t the general public share in the biggest money-making scheme ever devised in human history?


The bankers and their cronies have been plundering British society since Margaret Thatcher came to power. They say they are creating wealth, at the same time as they plunge hundreds of thousands into abject poverty by avoiding taxes whenever they can. They lie, they steal legally or at times by other means, they rig interest rates, and in the best cases, they are simply negligent, making the kind of crass, unpardonable, idiotic mistakes to which mass greed drives people. Yet at most, they are summoned before a parliamentary commission – a daunting thought with the firebrands currently sitting in Westminster – occasionally one or two say sorry, and then we are told by the servile lackeys in the press that this a concession and sufficient penalty enough.

Those bankers who have abused the public trust – either through negligence or deceit – should be given an ASBOS and made to do community service; the damage they have inflicted on society is vastly greater to that caused by youth gone wild. Let the bankers scrub the floors of the elderly and the poor. Let them do community services, cleaning litter and dog turds from the street; let them deliver meals-on-wheels to the unfortunate house-bound whose benefit Cameron has just so callously cut.

Our bankers are the scourge of the nation, and they should be shunned by any self-respecting member of society. When are we going to see an honest banker stand out, break ranks and denounce the iniquities of the banking system? Let the good bankers stand forward, if there are any.

After committing his murder, Markheim is confronted by the devil, or double, with whom he talks about his crime. Markheim protests that he should not be judged by his acts, explaining to his double “My life is but a travesty and a slander on myself. I have lived to belie my nature.” Furthermore, he tells the devil that he will win on the stock market with the money he has just stolen, and recuperate his losses; to which the devil replies bluntly that he can only ultimately lose again.

In the same fashion, the bankers; they explain away their plunging hundreds of thousands into poverty, fixing lending rates, charging exorbitant sums for the most basic transactions, and resisting any accountability to society whatsoever. And who can really doubt that if we do not legislate against them and their depraved lust for money, they will cause another crash in just a few years time, ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of working people?. Like Markheim, they actually think they are good men, at the same time as some of them, no doubt, flinch, like Stevenson’s anti-hero, at the sight of a looking-glass, that “hand-held conscience”.

But we, society, are the real mirror to the bankers. So far, we have done a pretty bad job at holding up a picture to them of their own greedy faces, offering back no more than a dull, clouded image to their gaze. Here is mine, to those Markheims in our midst: may your hair fall out, may your house fall down, and may a portion of that suffering you have visited on so many people over the last few years of this crisis be visited on you before the end of your days.

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  1. Keef says:

    I endorse your suggestion Douglas. What’s more I’d love to see the introduction of a ‘demand’ banknote by a nationalized bank on the same lines as Abe Lincoln’s greenbacks. It would be fantastic to see the abolishment of ‘fiat money’ and private banks in Scotland altogether. One can only live in hope though and first things first I want to see a YES vote win in 2014.

  2. DerryVickers says:

    Have you looked at the Airdrie Savings Bank. It might just meet your conditions

  3. derryvickers says:

    BTW – This is what’s on Wiki for the Airdrie Bank
    Airdrie Savings Bank was formed as part of a movement to bring banking services to the wider community in 1835. A board of trustees from the local community act as board of governors. Similar banks were set up throughout the United Kingdom. Eventually most of these were brought under the umbrella of the Trustee Savings Bank, which was subsequently floated on the London Stock Exchange. Airdrie was the only Savings Bank not to join this scheme.

    In August 2010 it was announced that a new branch would be opened after a cash injection of £10 million, from a group of Scottish entrepreneurs who support the bank’s mutual model. Sir Angus Grossart, Sir David Murray, Ann Gloag, Brian Souter, Sir Tom Farmer and Ewan Brown each provided £1 million. Soutar stated that “Airdrie Savings Bank represents what Scottish banks once stood for – security of funds, a focus on savings and outstanding personal service”. He went on to say that: “We believe the mutual principle is fundamental to the integrity of the bank. We are doing this because so many Scots are dismayed at what has happened within the banking sector”.[

  4. Alex Wilson says:

    Placing a central bank within a constitutional construct and limiting debt whilst operating a balanced budget is core policy of the Scottish Democratic Alliance

  5. keef22 says:

    Alex does it still have the ability to ‘charge’ the SG interest for just printing Fiat money and putting it into circulation? If so it’s fundamentally the same as what we already have.

  6. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Oh no, no……..lets apply Kev’s skinny model to this, banks are going the way of the coalmines everywhere folks, we just need to adapt and thrive, adapt and thrive.
    I’ve started printing my own money from the bank of Burdiehouse, I recommend Lidl’s united office paper as both a high quality and budget conscious solution.

  7. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson Iceland president ‘Let banks go bankrupt’

    Until people realise that we are forced to live in a failed capitalist system by most politicians who are only looking after themselves and friends.

  8. thejourneyman says:

    Try this link – http://www.newapproachtofreedom.info/documents/naf.pdf His theories on monetary power are as relevant today as when he produced them in the 1940s.

  9. keef22 says:

    Thanks journeyman. I’m only a few pages into this link but already I’m finding the information very enlightening.

    The answer is out there. Just not enough people are asking the question.

  10. Stating the obvious….!! “The Creature from Jekyll Island”. by Edward G Griffin..read this book A second look at the Federal Reserve” printed by American Media.

    This book is truly astonishing, explains the Banking system, and its corruption !!

  11. Barontorc says:

    When left with a blank canvas, what should we do?

    Is it beyond the wit of man (Scots) to create a national bank that will provide social services like the post office tries poorly to do and re-open branches throughout the country to suit all the public and create sustaining employment?

    Could this bank reflect all that is good about an ‘Airdrie SB’ model?

    Could the Scottish Gov insist that all inward and outward money deals go through this bank as a fundamental principle?

    Could such, produce a revenue stream that would benefit the development of public services in Scotland rather than line fat cat pockets?

    Can legislation be created and enacted that would prohibit casino banking by dint of criminal proceedings?

    Is there an example available on this planet that can be adapted for an independent Scotland?

    What are the risks and weaknesses of setting up a new banking ideology in this country?

    Has Iceland basically done this in part by telling the bankers to F.O.?

    There is surely a huge potential income and transaction base available – this country is not skint.

  12. There is a well thought out process set out for a National Bank in an independent Scotland which meets all the aspirations described in this article – even to the extent of a specific clause in the draft Constitution. The principles are on the website of the Scottish Democratic Alliance (limk below) and the detail is published in a booklet called “There’s No Independence without Financial Independence” – google in the name and you will find just how much work has gone into this.
    The SNP has done a great job getting us to the referendum – but it’s policy of Independence Light – i.e. leaving the Bank of England and the City of London to run the show is incredibly naive – changing this criminal system is surely one of the biggest attractions of Independence!
    The SNP say keep it simple and we can consider the currency if necessary at a later stage – the SDA say that the huge number of “Undecided” voters in 2013 need to know that Independence will bring Banking Reform – and all that entails. The SDA is looking for members who wish to push this important agenda as a choice in 2016….


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