Stephen Hester, the new RBS boss, said this morning that the United Kingdom Government—the UK Labour Government—had agreed the details of Sir Fred Goodwin's departure from RBS. Sir Fred Goodwin is getting a pension of £650,000 every year that is paid for by the taxpayer. The figure is 140 times the size of the normal state pension. On the day when RBS announces that thousands of Scottish jobs—in which people earn a fraction of that pension money—are at risk and posts the worst losses in corporate history, and when billions more of taxpayers' money is being used to bail out Fred Goodwin's mistakes, does the First Minister think that Fred Goodwin should touch a penny of that pension?
As I have already made clear, the pension arrangements cannot be justified. I think that that is a generally held view. I am grateful to Tavish Scott for reiterating and confirming the point on the UK Government's involvement that I attempted to make to Iain Gray.
I have met Stephen Hester on two occasions to discuss the impact of the Royal Bank of Scotland's plans on the Scottish economy. No one should underrate the seriousness of the situation. Equally, it should be remembered that the core businesses of the bank that are concentrated domestically are doing well, when compared with the general financial climate. Stephen Hester made public this morning an indication that he gave me in our meetings: that the bank will stay headquartered in Scotland and that, therefore, as we anticipate and believe in the recovery, the benefits of that decision, regardless of the seriousness of the current situation, will be impacted on the Scottish economy.
People find it truly shocking that the first instinct of banking fat cats has been to arrange their bonuses and their pensions, and that a Labour Government can sign off such a scandalously sweet deal behind closed doors and then attack it in public.
Yesterday's report by the Fraser of Allander institute says that the Scottish economy will shrink by 2.6 per cent this year, that 159,000 Scottish jobs could be lost and that the overall effect of the Scottish Government's six-point plan is "negligible". There are big, clear challenges ahead, so why has the First Minister spent this week creating a new argument with London? Why do people see in the papers this morning only spin and counter-spin, when the Governments should be adopting a united front to tackling the recession? When will our First Minister change how we go about doing business?
Tavish Scott should support our articulation directly to the Prime Minister of the serious implications of a £500 million cut in the Scottish budget and the cost of 8,600 jobs. That is an issue on which he should support the Scottish Government's arguments.
Yesterday, I was not alone in pointing out the dangers of the United Kingdom Government's approach. The same position was taken by the First Minister of Northern Ireland and the First Minister for Wales, even though we all belong to different political parties. If a First Minister who represents the Democratic Unionist Party, a First Minister who represents the Labour Party and a First Minister who represents the Scottish National Party can unite to say to the UK Government that cutting public spending in the teeth of a recession is exactly the wrong thing to do, is it too much to
Does the First Minister agree that urgent action is required to tackle the appalling level of rape convictions in Scotland, and that efforts to encourage women who have been raped to come forward have been seriously undermined by the actions of a temporary judge who, when faced with a woman who broke down because of the trauma of giving evidence and fled the court, sent her to the cells for a night? Will the First Minister join me in condemning that judge's behaviour? What action is his Government taking to tackle the level of rape convictions in Scotland and to counter the dreadful signal that has been sent to the people of Scotland?
On the first point, as the member knows, we must be extremely careful about commenting on judicial matters. However, I read about the case and was extremely concerned by what I read.
As far as the Government's approach to crimes of violence against women and to rape is concerned, the Lord Advocate has spelled out to Parliament exactly what the Government is doing in approaching the judicial system to improve Scotland's record on such matters, which is not good and so must be improved. That is what this Government intends, and is determined, to do.