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No accounting for finance hypocrisy

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