At Random with Martin Laing week 04

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Outraged by RBS

I watched on the TV news last week with dismay, initially, and genuine anger, latterly, as senior executives from RBS appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee at the House of Commons to be grilled over their planned swingeing branch closures.

I am absolutely outraged at what these jumped-up public servants – that is the bankers I’m talking about – are doing, especially to our rural and island communities.

Let’s be clear on this: we, the public, own RBS so these money-grabbing individuals are, in effect, workers in the public sector.

Les Matheson, chief executive of personal and business banking for RBS, simply refused to countenance any rethink on the closures, which include Inveraray and Castlebay on Barra, when he appeared before the committee last Wednesday.

Matheson told the committee that the closures would save the bank £9.5 million annually but he insisted the decision had not been taken to save money.

Aye, right.

Everything these people do is about money.

Matheson clearly knows nothing about the reality of life in Argyll and the Isles. He told the committee: ‘We are personally committed, as are all of our colleagues, to helping every individual customer.’

I do not believe a word of that statement.

As Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said last week: ‘An eye-watering £16 million was paid in bonuses to RBS senior executives, which would pay the wages of the staff at the Castlebay branch for about 266 years. That is the level of greed we are seeing here and not just greed but cowardice and irresponsibility.’

I could not agree more.

RBS is publicly-owned and is vital to already fragile rural and island communities. We need a widespread campaign to force these executives to do what we, their owners, demand.

Spread the word

There has been much delight across social media over the past few days at the names given to Scotland’s gritting vehicles.

You’d have had to be snowed in with all communications down to have missed it during the recent cold snap but there are some crackers.

Among them are Sir Andy Flurry, Luke Snowalker, Gritty Gritty Bang Bang and Sir Salter Scott.

These are great … but I’m sure you good readers could do better!

With no prizes at stake, let me know your suggestions. I’ll even get the ball rolling by offering a couple of my own. How about Flake’s 7 or Right Said Spread?

The address is on the end so send your ideas to me by email or letter.

Only an excuse

The time of year is looming when all honest men and women must have their annual tax returns completed.

So it is that HMRC sent me an email detailing some of the excuses received from people trying to avoid penalties for filing their tax returns late.

I was going to say, you couldn’t make them up … but clearly people did.

Among my favourites were: ‘I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house’ and  ‘My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it’.

As well as the excuses, HMRC also received some questionable items which taxpayers have tried to use as justifiable expenses to offset their tax liabilities.

Again, among the best were: ‘A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts’, ‘Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub’, ‘Vet fees for a rabbit’, ‘Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco’ and ‘£4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days’.

I’m delighted to report that HMRC assures us the excuses and expenses listed above were all rejected.

What do you think?

Write to me at or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.